As snoring and sleep apnea continue to affect hundreds of millions worldwide, the search for effective treatments has led some individuals to explore over-the-counter mouthguards as a potential solution. However, despite their allure of affordability and convenience, these generic mouthguards often fail to deliver the promised relief for sleep apnea sufferers. So let's dive into some of the main reasons why over-the-counter mouthguards often come up short in treating snoring, and sleep apnea.


Lack of Precision: 

Sleep apnea is a complex condition with varying degrees of severity and contributing factors unique to each individual. Over-the-counter mouth guards provide a one-size-fits-all approach for snoring, ignoring the essential step of diagnosis to see if more significant sleep apnea is actually present.  Additionally, they lack the customization needed to address the unique anatomical and positional challenges of each patient's mouth and airway. Think about it; if there was only one kind of shoe available to fit everyone’s foot; not many people would find it beneficial to wear.    

Limited Effectiveness: 

Over-the-counter mouthguards typically lack the adjustability and versatility necessary to optimize their function. They tend to pull the person's jaw way too far forward from the start.  The effectiveness of the appliance is more about preventing the jaw from collapsing backward and less about pulling the jaw really far forward.  Having the ability to fine-tune the appliance’s position can significantly impact its effectiveness in preventing airway collapse during sleep. Without the ability to start the jaw position conservatively and advance as needed, individuals may find little improvement in their sleep apnea symptoms, leading to jaw discomfort and ongoing sleep disruptions.

Comfort and Tolerance  Issues: 

Comfort is critical for success in any sleep apnea treatment.  Just as people complain of poorly fitting CPAP masks, over-the-counter mouthguards may cause discomfort or irritation due to their generic fit, leading to a reduced willingness to wear them. A comfortable oral appliance encourages regular use, ensuring consistent treatment and better symptom management. Custom-made oral appliances, prescribed by qualified dentists, take comfort and fit into account, making them a more durable and viable long-term solution.

Risk of Side Effects: 

Over-the-counter mouthguards are not subject to the same rigorous testing and approval processes as medical-grade oral appliances. While all therapy options come with a certain degree of risk, using such products without professional guidance may lead to a greater risk of unintended side effects, including jaw pain, tooth misalignment, bite change, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues. Custom-made oral appliances, supervised by a qualified dentist and sleep specialist, significantly reduce the risk of these potential complications.

Missed Opportunity for Expert Consultation:

Sleep apnea can have potentially devastating health risks.  By choosing over-the-counter mouthguards, individuals forego the opportunity to consult with experienced medical sleep specialists or dentists. These professionals can conduct comprehensive evaluations, provide an accurate diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatments, including CPAPs or custom-fabricated oral appliances. Missing out on expert guidance may delay proper diagnosis and lead to ineffective self-treatment attempts and poorly managed disease. 


While over-the-counter mouthguards may seem like a quick and easy solution, they often fall short in appropriately treating snoring and are not approved for the treatment of sleep apnea. Custom-made adjustable oral appliances, designed by professionals, offer personalized solutions tailored to individual bodies and distinct needs, ensuring greater comfort, willingness to wear, and treatment efficacy. For those seeking lasting relief from sleep apnea, it's essential to prioritize expert guidance and explore medically approved options that address the unique challenges of each individual's condition.

If you would like to meet with our expert dentist Dr. McLain to discuss your options and talk about how a custom-built dental appliance for snoring and sleep apnea may benefit you.  Please call Refresh Snoring and Sleep Apnea at 303-688-6630 and we can help you find a comfortable effective solution to address your needs.