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Pricey custom-fitted mouthpieces work when all else fails

Anti-snoring mouthpieces look similar to the mouth guards football and hockey players wear. They usually work by pushing the lower jaw slightly forward (some hold the tongue down instead), opening the airway.

You can buy anti-snoring mouthpieces over the counter for as little as $10 -- but experts don't recommend them. Besides, they're uncomfortable, say testers at three separate British sources.

"Most [testers] found them too uncomfortable to wear," says Good Housekeeping (U.K.), where the over-the-counter mouthpieces have the lowest rating of all remedies tested. At Which? magazine, an over-the-counter mouthpiece works for one tester, but "he said it was so uncomfortable that he would be reluctant to use it again," BBC News reports. Rory Clements tries one for the Daily Mail (U.K.): "At first it makes me gag," he writes. He manages to wear it through the night, "only to be told that I have been snoring like a train."

What really works: a custom-fitted mouthpiece (Est. $3,000 to $6,000) from a dentist trained in sleep medicine. Custom mouthpieces are far more comfortable -- and they relieve snoring in 80 to 90 percent of patients who use them faithfully, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine tells The New York Times.

They're not cheap. Expect to pay $1,500 to $3,000 for a sleep study (where a doctor will determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea) plus another $1,500 to $3,000 for the mouthpiece and follow-up visits and adjustments, The New York Times estimates. Check your medical insurance, though: It will often cover a doctor-ordered sleep study as well as the mouthpiece if it's used to treat sleep apnea, a serious medical condition.  

Custom-fitted mouthpieces are prescribed for both snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea. In fact, a custom-fitted mouthpiece can be a more comfortable alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for some sleep apnea sufferers. For more information, see our separate section on sleep apnea.

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