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Is a Mouth Guard Necessary for Sleep Apnea?

Christine DiMaria

You might be wondering, "Is a mouth guard necessary for sleep apnea?" Well, sleep apnea affects more than just your quality of sleep, your breathing and your cardiovascular system. In fact, it also affects your oral health in several ways.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when you stop breathing while you're sleeping. Your breathing generally resumes on its own after a few seconds or a few minutes.

Sleep Apnea and Your Mouth

When you suffer from sleep apnea, you may sleep with your mouth open at night, and you might frequently wake up with dry mouth.

When your mouth is dry, you lack saliva, which your mouth needs to fight off bacteria. This lack of saliva can lead to an increase of germs in your mouth. It can also lead to tooth decay. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) notes that sleep apnea may lead to bruxism, which is more commonly known as teeth grinding. According to the NSF, treating sleep apnea has the potential to lessen nocturnal teeth grinding.

The shape of your jaw and having an overbite both affect your risk of having this particular condition. The size of your tongue also plays a role.

Is a Mouth Guard Necessary for Sleep Apnea?

Is a mouth guard necessary for sleep apnea? No, you don't have to wear a mouth guard to treat sleep apnea, but it is helpful. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, a mouth guard may aid with mild cases of sleep apnea. It is often effective for correcting loud snoring as well. You know, the type that keeps your partner up all night? The mouthpiece adjusts the position of your tongue and the lower portion of your jaw in order to keep airways open during the time when you're sleeping. This means you'll have more continuous airflow entering your mouth.

One type of oral appliance that treats sleep apnea is a mandibular advancement device. It looks similar to a sports mouth guard, and it connects to the upper and lower dental arches. The device will also prevent you from grinding your teeth.

Whether a mouth guard is necessary for your sleep apnea depends on the severity of your condition. Even in cases of moderate sleep apnea, a mouth guard might help. This is especially true if you don't wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The CPAP is a mask that fits over the nose and the mouth and blows air into the airway to assist in keeping it open during sleep. Only your health care provider can determine whether a mouth guard is right for you.

Learn more about sleep apnea in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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