Perhaps you’ve seen the advertisements selling a chin strap to treat sleep apnea. A chin strap. To treat sleep apnea. Really? But does it work? Some people claim that it helps them. Others say it’s a scam. Which is it? Let’s take a no spin look at this, shall we?
The Chin Strap
Cpap remains the gold standard of therapy for sleep apnea. But unfortunately, many people can’t tolerate this form of treatment. The good news is, there are other forms of treatment available. One such device in the news recently is the chin strap. And while not new, it appears to have a ‘new’ function. It not only holds your mouth closed but claims it will keep your airway open as well.
But does it live up to its claim? Let’s take a no spin look into this. We’ll also see how it compares to other forms of treatment.
To begin with, there are several different styles of chin straps. But they all do 2 basic things: they hold your mouth closed, and support your jaw so it stays in place. With that, we’ll look at what holding your mouth closed does and doesn’t do. But first, let’s see why holding your mouth closed is actually healthier for you.
Mouth Breathing is bad for Your Health
When you breathe through your mouth, the air isn’t warmed and moisturized like it is with nasal breathing. This causes dry mouth, which encourages bacteria growth, leading to cavities. Nasal breathing not only warms and moisturizes the air, it also acts as a filter, reducing dust and allergens.
Also, when you breathe through your nose, Nitric Oxide is produced in small quantities. This gas actually makes you absorb more oxygen, which is even more important while you’re sleeping. This is because your breathing becomes slower and shallower in your sleep.
Keep in mind that many people see their Dentist more than their Doctor. Therefore it’s usually the Dentist that notices mouth breathing issues. Additionally, mouth breathing in children can actually cause abnormal facial and dental development.
However, holding your mouth closed by itself does not keep your airway open. But if you’re using cpap, and you can’t tolerate a full face mask, and you breathe with your mouth, a chin strap can be a good addition to your treatment.
Although, there are times when holding your mouth closed isn’t good.
When not to use a Chin Strap
Because a chin strap holds your mouth closed, you really shouldn’t use one if you have sinus congestion or anything else that makes it difficult to breathe just through your nose.
Also, a chin strap will only reduce snoring coming from your throat. There’s a flap of skin at the back of your throat called the soft palate. Air flowing across that can cause it to vibrate, resulting in a snore. A chin strap will have some effect in this case. However, it will have no effect on snoring originating from your sinuses.
Additionally, if you suspect that you have sleep apnea, or have been diagnosed with OSA, a chin strap might not be effective at all. Some symptoms to be aware of are:
- Waking with a headache
- Being REALLY tired all the time
- Mood swings
- High blood pressure
- Snoring and/or pauses in breathing
- Waking up choking
If you have any of these symptoms, you might have sleep apnea and should have a sleep study.
However, the chin strap also supports your jaw, keeping it from falling back against your throat. So you’d think that it would do some good,. right? But a study done on 26 adult patients with OSA, found that a chin strap alone was not effective in treating sleep apnea. Granted, this is a rather small study.
But what about oral appliances? Don’t they do the same thing as a chin strap? How do these 2 devices compare?
Let’s take a look.
Chin Strap vs Oral Appliance
A chin strap holds your mouth closed, while oral appliances don’t to the same degree. And while both the chin strap and the oral appliance hold your jaw forward, oral appliances have been proven to do this more effectively.
So even though a chin strap is less expensive than an oral appliance, it’s also less effective. But please be aware, because while you can get cheap oral appliances online, they won’t work as well either. Why’s that? Because the most effective oral appliance is the one fitted and adjusted just for you. These types of oral appliances are adapted to you, preferably in a sleep lab, where the Technologist can fine-tune them to get you breathing well.
However, you can’t use an oral appliance if you have dentures or loose/missing teeth. So if that’s you, and you also can’t tolerate CPAP, talk with your Doctor. There are surgical procedures that may help.
Now let’s take a brief look at cost.
CPAP can run anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500.
On the other hand, an Oral Appliance can range from $1,800 to$2,000. And oral appliances are favored over CPAP. Also, most insurance companies cover these devices. Of course, you can get less expensive devices online for Less than $50.00. But as we’ve seen, this really isn’t a good option.
Cost of Anti Snoring Chin Strap? Anywhere from $6.99 at Walmart, up to $59.99.
Is a Chin Strap right for me?
Remeber, there’s a difference between simple snoring, and snoring with sleep apnea. Talk with your Doctor about any concerns you have before buying anything.
And again, the cost is certainly a concern for most of us. Therefore there’s a tendency to take the cheapest route. So why not just buy a chin strap or oral appliance and be done with it. But is it that easy? If you haven’t even been diagnosed with sleep apnea, how do you know you’re giving yourself the right treatment?
Maybe all you do is snore. But, where is your snoring originating from? Is it from the soft palate, that flap of skin at the back of your throat? Or is it coming from your sinus area? Or both? And what if your snoring is a sign of something worse, like sleep apnea?
And if you live alone, you have no one to tell you what you do in your sleep. Maybe you’ve woke yourself up snoring or snorting. If that’s the case, don’t take any chances with a simple chin strap or cheap oral appliance. That’s the time to have a talk with your Doctor.
Suspect sleep apnea especially if you have certain body characteristics that make you more likely to have OSA. The physical characteristics that you inherit make it either more or less likely that you’ll have this disorder. The 3 main physical traits are the shape of the bony structures of the skull and face, body fat distribution, and how the upper airway muscles function.
So then, CPAP machines and oral appliances are more expensive, but they also work the best. And while chin straps do serve a purpose, they work better in conjunction with CPAP.
We’ve taken a look at the chin strap, and also compared it with other devices for sleep apnea. We’ve discovered that the chin strap is limited in its function. And while there’s a tendency to ‘go the cheap route’, when it comes to your health, please don’t play with your life like that.
Till next time…Blessings.