Title:
Methods for snorkels and mouthpiece systems
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Methods and designs are disclosed for providing a chin rest member (138) for reducing, distribution or alleviating loading forces (82) applied on a breathing device member (124) such as a snorkel (38), a second stage regulator (146) or other breathing devices using a mouthpiece (30) that is held inside the mouth of a swimmer. Methods for using a chin rest member (138) for reducing deformation of a mouthpiece (30), reducing jaw fatigue, reducing abrasion to the soft tissues of the mouth, improving air flow alignment, positioning and contouring of the mouthpiece (30) under the exertion of loading forces (82) are disclosed. Methods are also disclosed for adjusting the position the chin rest member (138) relative to the mouthpiece (30) as well as for accommodating different users having different size chins and, or overbite conditions, as well as methods for accommodating a major portion of majority of user's with one size. Methods are provided for reducing or eliminating bending and collapsing of the mouthpiece (30) around a transverse axis under loading forces (82) created during use. Methods are also provided for providing a chin rest member (138) that is made with a relatively soft material to provide cushioning and, or contouring to the chin of a swimmer. Molding methods and designs are also disclosed for providing improved leverage and control over the mouthpiece (30) and breathing tube (34) connected to the mouthpiece (30), reduced muscle strain, reduced jaw fatigue and reduced mouth pain during diving. Methods are also provided for other mouthpiece systems.



Inventors:
Mccarthy, Peter T. (Oxnard, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/818506
Publication Date:
09/04/2008
Filing Date:
06/13/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63C11/16
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20020062830Respirator for a protective device, such as a protective mask, protective hood or protective suitMay, 2002Meier et al.
20100018524METERED DOSE DISPENSERSJanuary, 2010Jinks et al.
20060134007Blister for inhalersJune, 2006Krueger et al.
20070098672Fogger propellant system for containing and dispersing antimicrobial and air freshening compoundsMay, 2007O'sullivan
20090255542MASK NOSE CLIP AND A RESPIRATORY MASKOctober, 2009Ugai et al.
20070289596Endotracheal cuff and technique for using the sameDecember, 2007Campbell et al.
20060254604Simulated cigarette which is designed to help quell tobacco addictionNovember, 2006Martinez Fernandez
20060130833Treatment of obstructive sleep apneaJune, 2006Younes
20080220403SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR MANAGING DIABETESSeptember, 2008Marling et al.
20020112720Non-spill nebuliser for aerosol systemsAugust, 2002Abate
20070295331Respirator Fit-Testing Apparatus and MethodDecember, 2007Crutchfield



Primary Examiner:
SIPPEL, RACHEL T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Peter T. McCarthy (Oxnard, CA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method for providing an underwater breathing device, comprising providing a mouthpiece having a U-shaped member that is arranged to be retained inside of the mouth of a swimmer, said mouthpiece being connected to a predetermined body that is arranged to provide breathable gas to the swimmer through said mouthpiece, said U-shaped member having a sealing flange member that is arranged to create a water tight seal within the mouth of the user during use as said swimmer breathes said breathable gas while at least one external portion of the lips of the swimmer is in contact with water, said mouthpiece having bite tab members arranged to be positioned between the teeth of the swimmer, at least one external force being applied to said predetermined body during use, and providing said predetermined body with a chin rest member that is arranged to contact at least one portion of the chin region of the face of the swimmer while said mouthpiece is in a substantially comfortable alignment within the swimmer's mouth.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to create a reduction in the amount of said external force applied to said mouthpiece.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to increase the stability of said mouthpiece within the mouth of the swimmer during use.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to create a reduction in jaw fatigue during use.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to create a reduction in jaw fatigue during use.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to reduce the tendency for said mouthpiece to pivot around a transverse axis within the mouth of the swimmer during use.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein the position of said chin rest member is arranged to be adjustable.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member has an adjustable member that is arranged to permit the position of said chin rest member relative to said mouthpiece to be adjustable.

9. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is made with a relatively soft material.

10. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member has a curved contour.

11. The method of claim 1 wherein said predetermined body is selected from the group consisting of snorkels, diving regulators, and rebreathers.

12. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member has a rearward portion that contacts at least one the chin region of the swimmer's face, said predetermined body having a predetermined gap between said rearward portion of said chin rest member and said sealing flange of said U-shaped member, and said gap having a forward end portion that is sufficiently forward of said rearward portion of said chin rest member to permit the lower lip of the swimmer to comfortably fit within said gap without being excessively compressed by said forward end portion.

13. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member has a rearward portion that is arranged to contact at least one portion of the chin of the swimmer in an area below the lower lip of the swimmer while said mouthpiece is in a substantially comfortable alignment within the swimmer's mouth during use, said predetermined body having a predetermined gap having a forward portion that is positioned substantially vertically between said rearward portion of said chin rest member and said sealing flange of said U-shaped member, and said gap being arranged to provide an area in which the lower lip of the user can occupy without being excessively compressed by said forward end portion during use.

14. The method of claim 1 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to create a reduction in the amount of biting tension required by the swimmer on said bite tab members to retain said mouthpiece within the mouth of the swimmer during use.

15. A method for providing a mouthpiece tube, comprising providing a mouthpiece tube having at least one portion that is arranged to extend inside of the mouth of a user, said mouthpiece tube being connected to a predetermined body that is arranged to deliver a predetermined medium to the mouth of the user through said mouthpiece tube, at least one external force being applied to said predetermined body during use, and said predetermined body having a chin rest member that is arranged to contact at least one portion of the chin region of the face of the user while said mouthpiece is in a substantially comfortable alignment within the user's mouth and while at least one external portion of the lips of the user is exposed to the environment, said chin rest member being arranged to increase the stability of said mouthpiece tube within the mouth of the user during use.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein said chin rest member has an adjustable member that is arranged to permit the position of said chin rest member relative to said mouthpiece to be adjustable.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein said chin rest member has a rearward portion that contacts at least one the chin region of the user's face, said predetermined body having a predetermined gap between said rearward portion of said chin rest member and mouthpiece tube, and said predetermined gap having a forward end portion that is sufficiently forward of said rearward portion of said chin rest member to permit the lower lip of the user to comfortably fit within said gap without being excessively compressed by said forward end portion.

18. The method of claim 15 wherein said chin rest member has a rearward portion that is arranged to contact at least one portion of the chin of the user in an area below the lower lip of the user while said mouthpiece tube is in a substantially comfortable alignment with the user's mouth during use, said predetermined body having a predetermined gap having a forward portion that is positioned substantially vertically between said rearward portion of said chin rest member and mouthpiece tube, and said gap being arranged to provide an area in which the lower lip of the user can occupy without being excessively compressed by said forward end portion during use.

19. A method for providing an underwater breathing device, comprising providing a mouthpiece having at least one engaging portion that is arranged to extend inside of the mouth of a swimmer, said mouthpiece being connected to a predetermined body that is arranged to provide breathable gas to the swimmer through said mouthpiece, said predetermined body being subjected to predetermined loading forces during use, said at least one engaging portion being arranged to create a water tight seal within the mouth of the user during use as said swimmer breathes said breathable gas, and said predetermined body having a chin rest member having a rearward portion that is arranged to contact at least one the chin region of the user's face while said at least one engaging portion is arranged to be in a substantially comfortable alignment within the mouth of the user, said predetermined body having a predetermined gap between said rearward portion of said chin rest member and mouthpiece tube, and said predetermined gap having a forward end portion that is sufficiently forward of said rearward portion of said chin rest member to permit the lower lip of the user to comfortably fit within said gap without being excessively compressed by said forward end portion.

20. The method of claim 19 wherein said chin rest member is arranged to permit a sufficient amount of said predetermined loading forces to be applied to the chin area of the swimmer to increase the stability of said mouthpiece under the exertion of said predetermined loading forces.

Description:

This application claims the benefit under 34 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/813,657, filed Jun. 14, 2006, titled Methods for Snorkels and Breathing Systems.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of Invention

This invention relates to snorkels and scuba diving second stage regulators or other breathing systems, specifically to such devices that use a mouthpiece that is held within the mouth of a swimmer to create a water tight seal in the mouth.

2. Description of Prior Art

Prior art snorkels and scuba second stage regulators create jaw fatigue and discomfort in the mouth, gums, and internal mouth tissues. This occurs as loads are applied to the snorkel or regulator that the mouthpiece is coupled to, due to weight and, or drag forces on such device during diving as well as leverage forces created by bending resistance or drag in attached air supply hosing or tubes. Such loads cause the position of the snorkel or regulator to move relative to the mouth causing the contours of the mouthpiece to be misaligned with the contours of the mouth and cause the jaw, lip, face and/or cheek muscles to tighten in an effort to reduce and, or resist movement of the mouthpiece. Muscle strain and fatigue can be heightened by long duration and repeat dives as well as the cooling effect of water. This can reduce the enjoyment of diving, create headaches, jaw cramps, inability to move the jaw muscles, and can also cause a diving hazard. In addition, the movement of the mouthpiece under such load can lead to chaffing, abrasion, cutting and irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth, including gums and lips. Such movement can also cause pressure and deformation on the swimmer's gums and lips, increased jaw fatigue by an actual or perceived need to increase biting tension, reduced water seal, deviated alignment of the water seal portions of the mouthpiece, deviated alignment of airflow from the device the mouthpiece is coupled to relative to the alignment of the airway in the swimmer's mouth, and other problems. In addition, such movement of the mouthpiece under load causes increased biting pressure that reduces the longevity of the mouthpiece as the teeth eventually tear through the soft material, which can eventually cause an inability to retain the mouthpiece within the mouth and can be a hazard during diving. Also, jaw strain can cause distraction while diving and can also lead to jaw and mouth problems and, or can be accentuated by jaw or mouth problems including TMJ, tooth pain, muscle strain, or sores, cuts and abrasions in the soft tissues of the mouth.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES

Accordingly, several objects and advantages of the present invention are:

    • (a) to provide methods and design that create reduced jaw fatigue;
    • (b) to provide reduced movement of a snorkels and diving regulators during use;
    • (c) to provide reduced chaffing and abrasion against soft tissues of the mouth;
    • (d) to provide reduced deformation as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (e) to provide improved water tight seal during diving as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (f) to provide improved alignment of airflow through the passageway of the mouthpiece relative to the alignment of the airway through the swimmer's mouth as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (g) to provide increased longevity and reduced structural failure under biting tension;
    • (h) to provide increased security of the mouthpiece during use;
    • (i) to provide reduced need for biting tension to retain mouthpieces;
    • (j) to provide improved structural stability;
    • (k) to provide improved alignment of contoured surfaces with the contours of the mouth, teeth, lips and gums;
    • (l) to provide increased comfort for increased dive duration and increased repeat dives;
    • (m) to provide increased diving enjoyment and relaxation;
    • (n) to provide methods for opposing loads applied to snorkels and regulators during swimming with reduced effort and increased comfort;
    • (o) to provide methods for resting snorkels and regulators on the user's chin below the lower lip without avoiding discomfort to such lower lip while using U-shaped flexible mouthpieces within the mouth to create water tight seals inside of the user's mouth relative to the surrounding water;
    • (p) to provide methods for reducing deformation to the swimmer's lower lip during use;
    • (q) to provide methods reducing or even eliminating the need for the user to bit down on the mouthpiece being held inside of the mouth;
    • (r) to provide methods and designs for providing adjustability of a chin rest for different size chins; and
    • (s) to provide methods for providing a relatively soft and compressible material connected to a snorkel or regulator for providing a cushion that can rest against the chin of the user during use to reduce or eliminate torsional forces to the mouthpiece during use.

Still further objects and objectives will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.

DRAWING FIGURES

FIG. 1 shows a side view of a prior art snorkel in the mouth of a swimmer while swimming.

FIG. 2 shows the same view as shown in FIG. 1 except that the swimmer is holding the mouthpiece loosely in the mouth while swimming.

FIG. 3 shows a side view of an improved snorkel that is in the mouth of a user.

FIG. 4 shows a side view of an improved scuba regulator that is in the mouth of a user.

FIG. 5 shows a side view of an improved underwater breathing device that is in the mouth of a user during use and has a chin rest member.

FIG. 6 shows the same side view as shown in FIG. 5 except that in FIG. 6 the jaw of the user is more open with upper and lower teeth being farther apart.

FIG. 7a shows a close up side view of an improved underwater breathing device that is in the mouth of a user.

FIG. 7b shows a side view of the improved breathing device shown in FIG. 7a.

FIG. 8a shows a close up side view of an improved underwater breathing device.

FIG. 8b shows a side view of the improved breathing device shown in FIG. 8a, but within the mouth of a user.

FIG. 9a shows a close up side view of an improved underwater breathing device.

FIG. 9b shows a side view of the improved breathing device shown in FIG. 9a, but within the mouth of a user.

FIG. 10 shows a side perspective view of an alternate embodiment.

FIG. 11a shows a cross section view taken along the line 11-11 in FIG. 10.

FIG. 11b shows an alternate embodiment of the cross section view shown in FIG. 11a.

FIG. 11c shows an alternate embodiment of the cross section view shown in FIG. 11b.

FIG. 12 shows a perspective view of an alternate embodiment.

FIG. 13a shows a top view of the mouthpiece and connector shown in FIG. 12.

FIG. 13b shows the mouthpiece and connector of FIG. 13a in an extended position.

FIG. 13b shows the mouthpiece and connector of FIGS. 13a and 13b in a retracted position.

FIG. 14 shows a perspective view of an alternate embodiment.

FIG. 15 shows an alternate embodiment cross section view taken along the line 15-15 in FIG. 14.

FIG. 16 shows the same cross sectional view of the alternate embodiment shown in FIG. 15 in an extended position.

FIG. 17 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having an adjustment member that is a pivoting member on the breathing device.

FIG. 18 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having an adjustment member that is a pivoting mouthpiece.

FIG. 19 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is retractable and extendable.

FIG. 20 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is retractable and extendable.

FIG. 21 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that can be rotated and, or removed.

FIG. 22 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is deformable.

FIG. 23 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is removable.

FIG. 24 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is adjustable.

FIG. 25 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is arranged to be pivotally adjustable.

DESCRIPTION AND OPERATION

FIG. 1 shows a side view of a prior art snorkel in the mouth of a swimmer while swimming. A cutaway view of a mouthpiece 30 is shown within the mouth of a user. Mouthpiece 30 is connected to a breathing tube 34 and breathing tube 34 is connected to a snorkel 38. Snorkel 38 has a lower portion 42, a lower end 46, a purge valve 50 near lower end 46, an upper end 54 and an upper opening 58 that extends above a surface 62 of the water during surface swimming to deliver breathable air to the swimmer through mouthpiece 30. Mouthpiece 30 is seen to have a bite tab 66 shown in a cutaway view between the teeth of the swimmer and a U-shaped wing member 70 that is shown by dotted lines and typically fits between the outside of the user's teeth and gums and the inside of the user's cheeks and lips.

In FIG. 1, snorkel 38 is seen to have experienced a deflection 72 from a neutral position 74, shown by broken lines, to a deflected position 78. This occurs as a loading force 82 is created by drag applied to snorkel 38 due to a relative movement 86 between the swimmer and surrounding water. In this case relative movement 86 is forward directed due to forward swimming or opposing an oncoming current or surge within the surrounding water. Relative movement 72 can result from Force 82 can also be at least partially caused by the weight of snorkel 38 which can cause snorkel 38 to pivot downward relative to the mouth of the user during use. While this example shows a snorkel being used, the same problems described also occur with second stage scuba regulators and other under water breathing devices which have a mouthpiece that extends into the mouth of a swimmer.

Relative forward movement 86 creates drag on snorkel 38 in the form of force 82 that is substantially opposite to swimming relative movement 86. Force 82 causes snorkel 38 to experience deflection 72 which causes wing member 70 (shown by dotted lines) to bend within the swimmer's mouth. Deflection 72 to deflected position 78 causes an upper portion 90 of mouthpiece 30 to tilt forward and away from the upper teeth and gums of the user, press outward on the upper lip of the user. Deflection 72 also causes a lower portion 94 to also press downward and inward on the lower gums as well as downward and outward on the user's lower lip, which causes the lower lip to curl outward and downward along the chin. This increases discomfort, reduces the quality and integrity of the water tight seal intended by wing member 70. In addition, a significant portion of mouthpiece 30 is no longer able to properly conform to the contours of the user's mouth and uneven pressure points and chaffing is applied to the soft tissues of the user's mouth. This can also cause the user to tighten muscles within the lips, cheeks and chin and jaw, which can increase muscle strain and fatigue.

In deflected position 78, a passageway 98 of mouthpiece 30 is oriented at an upward angle to create a passageway flow direction 102 having a passageway flow alignment 106 shown by broken lines. Passageway flow direction 102 is seen to be at a deflected angle 110 to an airway flow direction 114 within the back of the user's mouth that has an airway flow alignment 118 shown by broken lines. Passageway flow direction 102 is seen to be directed substantially toward the roof of the user's mouth rather than substantially parallel to airway flow alignment 118 and this can reduce flow efficiency, ventilation capacity during exertion, and create increased drying to the tissues on the roof of the mouth. Also, the downward movement of mouthpiece 30 during deflection 78 causes a rearward opening 122 within passageway 98 to move downward. This causes an increased amount of rear opening 122 of internal passageway 98 to be blocked by the lower front teeth of the user to reduce airflow capacity which can increase work of breathing and ventilation flow capacity. In addition, this further increases the deflection of passageway flow alignment 106 as passageway flow direction 102 is deflected upward and then over the front surfaces and upper edges of the lower front teeth of the user.

In addition, deflected position 78 causes the contours of mouthpiece 30 to be misaligned with the tissues of the user's mouth to cause point pressures, chaffing, irritation, discomfort and increased muscle strain.

Muscle strain and discomfort is further heightened as the direction and magnitude of force 82 continually changes with changes in swimming speed, changes in relative direction such as when the swimmer's head is turned up or down or from side to side relative to a direction of swimming or current, changes in current, oscillating reversals in surge direction as waves approach and then pass by, wave chop during surface swimming, and even wind pressure and waves exerted on snorkel 38. Many of these same changing situations occur when mouthpiece 30 is connected to a second stage scuba regulator, including additional forces from drag, bending resistance and, or weight exerted on the air supply hoses. Changes in the magnitude and direction of force 82 and, or combinations of alternating forces that make up force 82 can cause deflected position 78 to move to new orientations and different locations. This can create additional chaffing of soft tissues and can also create additional muscle strain as different muscle groups need to be tightened, moved and adjusted.

FIG. 2 shows the same view as shown in FIG. 1 except that the swimmer is holding mouthpiece 30 loosely in the mouth while swimming. This example is to show what can happen if a swimmer loosens biting tension on bite tabs 66 as force 82 is applied to snorkel 38 (or a second stage scuba regulator or similar device). Bite tab 66 is seen to have pivoted against the upper teeth and is spaced from the lower teeth. This permits deflection 70 to be greater in FIG. 2 than shown in FIG. 1. In FIG. 2, defection 72 to deflected position 78 causes increased movement of mouthpiece 30 so that upper portion 90 has pivoted far away from the upper front teeth of the user and is also no longer in contact with the upper lip of the user. This causes the water tight seal intended by mouthpiece 30 within the user's mouth to be broken so that water can enter the user's mouth during breathing, which can be a hazard. In order to re-establish the water tight seal between upper portion 90 and the upper lip of the user, the swimmer must apply a tightened grip on bite tab 66 and close the jaw as shown in FIG. 1. This increases jaw fatigue and prevents the user from relaxing his bite. In FIG. 2, the lower lip of the user is also seen to have increased deformation as it is forced to curl downward and outward over the user's chin area. This can also cause the muscles of the lips, checks and face to need to be tightened so as to help restrain mouthpiece 30 and oppose deflection 72 and force 82. In addition, deflection 110 is increased as the pivoting of mouthpiece 30 causes passageway flow alignment to have an increased upward angle against the roof of the mouth and opening 122 becomes further blocked by the lower teeth of the user as lower portion 94 pivots further downward and against the soft gum tissues below the lower teeth. Even in a compromised position between FIGS. 1 and 2 where the water tight seal is not yet broken, jaw fatigue, muscle strain, pain, discomfort, chaffing and tissue deformation can be significantly high and the integrity of the water tight seal can be greatly reduced and can lead to some leaking.

FIG. 3 shows a side view of an improved snorkel 38 that is in the mouth of a user. Mouthpiece 30 is connected to a breathing device member 124. In this example, breathing device member 124 is snorkel 38; however, in other embodiments, breathing device member 124 may be any suitable device arranged to supply air to a swimmer. The user is seen to be wearing a mask 126 having a mask strap 130 and snorkel 38 is seen to be connected to mask strap 130 with a connection member 134. Force 82, which can result from the weight of member 124 and, or drag forces within the surrounding water created during use, is applied to member 124. Member 124 is seen to have a chin rest member 138 which is arranged to contact the chin of the user during use. It is preferred that rest member 138 contact the chin of the user sufficiently to permit the user's chin to apply a supporting force 142 that can reduce or even eliminate excessive pivoting of mouthpiece 30 under the exertion of force 82 during use. In this example, chin rest member 142 is seen to be convexly shaped from a side view; however, alternate embodiments may use shapes that are relatively concave, flat, curved, use multiple curves or may use any suitable shape. In this example, rest member 138 is seen to be arranged to contact the portion of the chin that is concavely shaped beneath the lower lip of the user; however, rest member may be arranged to contact any portion or multiple portions of the chin area of the user during use. Rest member 138 is preferably made with an injection molded thermoplastic connected to breathing member 124 with any suitable chemical and, or mechanical bond. Preferably, rest member 138 is injection molded with a relatively flexible and, or relatively soft thermoplastic material to provide cushioning and comfort to the chin of the user; however, in alternate embodiments, chin rest member 138 may be made with any suitable material including relatively hard and, or relatively stiff materials. Examples of materials that may be used to make rest member 138 include, PVC, thermoplastic rubber, rubber, neoprene, fabric covered neoprene or similar materials, foam rubber, neoprene foams or other suitable foams, thermoplastic elastomers, thermoplastic olefins, thermoplastic silicones, silicones, polypropylene, polyethylene, or any other suitable material or thermoplastic material. Preferably, when stiffer materials are used for member 138, the surface area of contact with the chin should be sufficiently large enough to reduce or even prevent excessive point pressures on the tissues of the chin during use sufficiently to provide comfort to the chin during use. In alternate embodiments, rest member 138 may be made with any suitable material molded integrally with any portion of breathing device member 124 and, or may include a bulbous, curved, extended, or contoured region of member 124 that is arranged to contact at least one portion of the general chin area during use. Rest member 124 may be any portion of breathing device member 124 and, or mouthpiece 30 that is arranged to contact any portion of the chin region of the user during use.

It is preferred that breathing device member 124 is arranged to have a gap 154 between chin rest member 138 and mouthpiece 30 that is arranged provide a space for the lower lip of the user to occupy without becoming excessively compressed or pinched during use. Gap 154 preferably provides enough space around the lower lip of the user so that the outer and, or lower tissues of the lip are sufficiently free of pressure to reduce or even prevent discomfort to the lower lip during use. Preferably, gap 154 provides a relatively cavernous shape, recess, void, corridor or channel that has a forward portion 158 that is forward of a rearward portion 162 of chin rest member 138. Preferably, forward portion 158 is sufficiently forward to not create discomfort to the lower lip and rearward portion 162 of rest member 138 is preferably rearward enough to rest against the chin during use, including when force 82 is applied to breathing device member 124. In alternate embodiments, forward portion 158 may be relatively even with rearward portion 162 or gap 154 may also be not used at all if desired.

FIG. 4 shows a side view in which breathing device member 124 is a second stage scuba regulator 146. In this example, mouthpiece 30 is attached to regulator 146 with breathing tube 34. An air supply hose member is seen to be connected to regulator 146. In this example, chin rest member 138 is seen to contact the lower portion of the user's chin; however, any portion of the general chin area can be used. Preferably, portions of the chin area below the lower lip are used so as to provide leverage and support to reduce, oppose or even eliminate downward pivoting of breathing device member 124 and, or mouthpiece 30 during use as force 82 is applied. In this example, gap 154 is seen to be a relatively large space between mouthpiece 30 and forward portion 158 of chin rest member 138.

FIG. 5 shows a side view of breathing device member 124 that is in the mouth of a user during use while chin rest member 138 rests against the chin as force 82 is applied to member 124. Breathing device member 124 may be any suitable breathing device, such as a snorkel, second state scuba regulator, surface supplied pressurized air, rebreather mouthpiece, emergency air supply device, or any other suitable source of air supply. In this example, force 82 is at least in part due to relative movement 86 which in this case is directed forward from forward swimming and, or opposing an oncoming current or oncoming surge within the surrounding water. Mouthpiece 30 may be connected to breathing device member 124 in any suitable manner.

The cut-away view in FIG. 5 permits mouthpiece 30 to be viewed within the user's mouth. Upper portion 90 and lower portion 94 of mouthpiece 30 are seen to be aligned with the upper and lower teeth and lips of the user for providing comfortable and a beneficial water tight seal. U-shaped wing member 70 is seen to be aligned with the contours of the user's mouth to reduce or prevent the build up of point pressures on the soft tissues of the mouth during use. Chin rest member 138 is arranged to contact the chin so that the chin can providing supporting force 142 sufficient to permit mouthpiece 30 and, or breathing device member 124 to experience reduced or even eliminated pivoting within the mouth as force 82 is applied to breathing device member 124 during use. Because supporting force 142 successfully opposes force 82 to control, reduce or preferably eliminate excessive pivoting of mouthpiece 30 as force 82 is exerted, the user can reduce biting pressure on bite tab 66. In this example, a small amount of space is shown between bite tab 66 and the upper and lower teeth to show that the jaw is relaxed and preferably reduced, negligible or even no biting tension is required to be applied to bite tab 66 in order to retain mouthpiece 30 within the mouth as force 82 is applied during use. This is a major improvement that can greatly reduce or even eliminate muscle fatigue, jaw strain, headaches and interference from or aggravation to jaw related problems such as TMJ. In addition, the reduction or elimination of pivoting, deflection or deformation of mouthpiece 30 under force 82 can greatly reduced movement, abrasion, chaffing and irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth during use. Preferably, chin rest member 138 sufficiently contacts the chin to permit the user to completely relax the jaw during use. Experiments with these methods of the present invention have shown that the swimmer can greatly reduce or even completely eliminate perceptible biting tension so that the jaw muscles, lip muscles and face muscles are extremely or even completely relaxed even when force 82 and relative movement 86 are significantly high due to fast swimming speeds and, or fast current or surge.

In addition, because chin rest member 138 permits mouthpiece 30 to experience reduced or even eliminated pivoting under force 82, internal passageway 98 of mouthpiece 30 is seen to permit passageway flow direction 102 to be significantly aligned with airway flow direction 114 within the mouth of the user. This can increase flow efficiency, increase ventilation flow capacity especially during exertion or deep dives in which density is greatly increased, and reduce the work of breathing. In addition, because the swimmer is able to reduce, loosen or even eliminate biting tension on bite tab 66, the jaw can be opened for further increased flow capacity, further reduced work of breathing and increased comfort and increased safety during strenuous or demanding diving conditions.

A comparison between FIG. 1 and FIG. 5 shows the methods of the present invention can provide substantial improvements and benefits over the prior art.

FIG. 6 shows the same side view as shown in FIG. 5 except that in FIG. 6 the jaw of the user is more open with upper and lower teeth being farther apart. This view shows that even when the mouth is completely relaxed so that the upper and lower teeth do not even contact bite tab 66, preferred embodiments can permit the position of mouthpiece 30 and, or breathing device member 124 to have increased stability during use as supporting force 142 successfully opposes force 82 without any need for biting tension. In such preferred embodiments, jaw fatigue is dramatically reduced. In addition, in this example a small space is seen to exist between the upper and lower front teeth of the user and upper portion 90 and lower portion 94, respectively, of mouthpiece 30. This space is provided to show that the methods of the present invention can permit upper portion 90 and lower portion 94 of mouthpiece 30 to provide a quality and well distributed seal against the front lips of the user without the user having to pull inward on mouthpiece 30 with the lips to retain mouthpiece 30 within the mouth or to maintain a water tight seal. This demonstrates that the methods of the present invention can also be arranged to reduce muscle strain and tension within the lips and surrounding face muscles during use. In addition, while a space between the user's teeth and upper portion 90 and, or lower portion 94 is not necessary, such a space can exist and if no space exists, the methods of the present invention can permit mouthpiece 30 to apply reduced or even eliminated levels of tension or pressure against the teeth and surrounding gums and lips during use. This can greatly increase comfort, reduce pressure on soft tissues within the mouth, reduce chaffing, reduce point pressures, reduce pressure against any irritations previously existing within the mouth, and significantly increase comfort and diving enjoyment. While it is preferred that the methods of the present invention are used to maximize improvements in comfort and reductions in strain or discomfort, alternate embodiments may be arranged to provide only a certain area or level of improvement without having to provide maximum benefits or multiple benefits.

FIG. 7a shows a close up cutout side view of breathing device member 124 that is in the mouth of a user. In this example, a rearward opening vertical alignment 166 is shown by dotted lines extending between the rearward ends of upper portion 90 and lower portion 94 near rearward opening 122 of internal passageway 98. Alignment 166 is seen to be angled downward and rearward because the upper teeth of the user have a usual slight over bite relative to the lower teeth and this causes mouthpiece 30 and breathing device member 124 to be tilted downward. This causes mouthpiece 30 to be oriented at a horizontal alignment 174, shown by a dotted line, when upper portion 90 rests against the upper front teeth and lower portion 94 rests against the lower front teeth.

Rearward opening 122 has an upper opening portion 178 and a lower opening portion 182. A chin rest alignment line 170 is shown by dotted lines that originate at upper opening portion 178 and extends to rearward portion 162 of chin rest member 138.

Alignment 170 shows the position of rearward portion 162 relative to upper opening portion 178. This is useful because many people have a chin bone or a chin region that is nearly vertically beneath the upper front teeth. While this can vary for people with overbites as well as for people with shorter or longer chin regions, many if not most people can derive benefits if rearward portion 154 of chin rest 138 is arranged to be approximately below upper opening 178 of mouthpiece 30; however, the position of rearward portion may be varied to be further forward or further rearward from such a position. In this example, chin rest alignment line 170 is seen to intersects the forward portion of the user's chin and rearward portion 162 of chin rest 138 to show a common example when a portion of the user's chin is relatively below the front teeth. In this example, upper opening portion 178 is contacting the forward surface of the upper teeth, lower opening portion 182 is contacting the forward surface of the lower teeth and chin rest member 138 is contacting the user's chin to show that the position of rearward portion 162 of chin rest 138 is well positioned for comfortable and stable use. Variation can be accommodated as the soft tissues of the chin depress slightly when force 86 is applied to the chin and, or as mouthpiece 30 adjusts position during use within reasonably comfortable and usable angles and, or the use of a flexible material for chin rest member 138 is able to flex under supporting force 142. Alternate embodiments can also arrange chin rest member 138 to be adjustable, moveable, replaceable and, or removable to accommodate variations of chin sizes and overbite alignments. Fixed versions can use a median position that accommodates a majority of users or and still provide benefits to other users who do not receive an ideal fit, but still at least somewhat useable results.

In alternate embodiments, lower portion 94 can extend further rearward than upper portion 90 to accommodate a typical or common overbite angle for the front teeth. This would cause horizontal alignment 174 to be angled horizontally and approximately level instead of being inclined downward and this would also cause rearward portion 162 to move forward as breathing member 124 is rotated upward. In such a situation, rearward portion 162 could be extended further back toward the chin so that it would once again contact the chin, which in this example, would be approximately vertically below the forward surface of the front teeth.

Alignment 166 is at an angle 186 to alignment 170. Because in this simple example, rearward opening alignment 166 is substantially aligned with the angle of the user's overbite shown, and because chin rest alignment 170 contacts the user's chin in a vertical plum-line direction from upper opening portion 178, this example causes angle 186 to be approximately equal to the overbite angle of the user.

FIG. 7b shows a side view of breathing device member 124 shown in FIG. 7a, except that in FIG. 7a, breathing device member 124 and mouthpiece 30 are shown outside the mouth and are pivoted vertically relative to the orientation shown in FIG. 7a so that in FIG. 7b, rear opening alignment 166 is vertical. This view in FIG. 7b offers the ability to see the position of rearward portion 162 relative to alignment 166 of mouthpiece when breathing member 124 is held vertically and outside the mouth of a user. In this example, this view in Fib 7b causes rearward opening alignment 166 to be vertical and chin rest alignment 170 extends at angle 186 forward of the vertical plane of rearward opening alignment. Preferably, at least one portion of rearward portion 162 of chin rest member 138 touches, contacts or crosses rearward of a plane that is at an angle of between 0 to 30 degrees forward of rearward opening alignment 166. In embodiments where lower portion 94 of mouthpiece 30 extends further rearward than upper portion 92 to accommodate for a user's overbite, it is preferred that rearward opening alignment 166 extend vertically from upper opening portion 178 as a vertical reference line or plum-line in order to use a reference plane for adjusting angle 186 for positioning rearward portion 162. However, any method may be used to adjust, arrange or select the position of rearward portion 162 relative to the chin of the user during use.

Preferably, angle 186 can be within a wide number of ranges of angle 186, such as between 20 and 30 degrees, 15 and 30 degrees, 10 and 30 degrees, 15 and 20 degrees, 10 and 20 degrees, 5 degrees and 25 degrees, 5 and 20 degrees, 5 and 15 degrees, 5 and 10 degrees, 0 and 25 degrees, 0 and 20 degrees, 0 and 15 degrees, 0 and 10 degrees, 0 and 5 degrees, −5 and 20 degrees, −5 and 15 degrees, −5 and 10 degrees, −5 and 5 degrees, −10 and 10 degrees, and/or between −10 and 25 degrees. Some preferred ranges can be between 10 and 20 degrees, between 5 and 15 degrees and between 0 and 15 degrees; however, any angle or angles may be used to create desired results.

Preferably, angle 186 is within a suitable range that permits chin rest member 138 to contact the user's chin under the exertion of force 82 while mouthpiece 30 is sufficiently aligned with the user's mouth to be relatively comfortable and retainable with a water tight seal within the user's mouth. Preferably, mouthpiece 30 is able to maintain alignments that avoid excessive deformation and, or pressure to the lips, gums and soft tissues of the mouth.

FIG. 8a shows a close up side view of an alternate embodiment breathing member 124, which is similar to that shown in FIG. 7b, except that in FIG. 8a, rearward portion 162 of chin rest member 138 is closer to rearward opening alignment 166 than shown in FIG. 7b. In FIG. 8a, a dotted line shows a chin rest alignment 170′, which is at an angle 186′ to alignment 166. Chin rest alignment 170 shows the relative position of chin rest alignment 170 shown in FIG. 7b for comparison to chin rest alignment 170′ in FIG. 8a. In FIG. 8a, rearward portion 162 is seen to extend rearward across the plane created by chin rest alignment 170 and angle 186′ is less than angle 186. The reduced angle of angle 186′ that brings rearward portion 162 closer to alignment 166 can permit this embodiment to best fit a user that has a reduced overbite and, or a shorter chin. A further reduction in angle 186′ can be used for users having further reduced overbites and, or much smaller or even recessed chins or chin areas.

FIG. 8b shows a side view of the same breathing member 124 shown in FIG. 8a, but within the mouth of a user. In this example, rearward portion 162 extends further rearward (compared to FIGS. 7a and 7b) so that the embodiment in FIG. 8b would further accommodate shorter chins and/or reduced overbites. In this example, the same chin and overbite conditions of the user shown in FIGS. 7a and 7b is shown in FIG. 8b. This is done to show that even though the embodiment shown in FIGS. 7a and 7b are better suited for this same user, this user can still obtain benefits, usability and comfort even from a less than perfect fit. In FIG. 8b, supporting force 142 opposes force 82 and the further rearward position of rearward portion 162 causes alignment 174 in FIG. 8b to be less inclined that shown in FIG. 7a. In FIG. 8b, the reduced inclination of alignment 174 causes lower portion 94 of mouthpiece 30 to be spaced from the lower teeth while upper portion 90 contacts the upper teeth. Because the user's lips are still well positioned around upper portion 90 and lower portion 94, a water tight seal is maintained and deflection of the user's lips under force 82 is relatively small and significantly reduced to that shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. As stated previously, the beneficial support and stability provided by chin rest member 138 greatly reduces the need for biting tension on bite tab 66 or lip tension on mouthpiece 30. This permits mouthpiece 30 to not have to be perfectly aligned with the user's teeth as pressure is reduced. Because much of the loading forces created by force 82 is supported by the user's chin, forces being applied to the mouth are greatly reduced, and in preferred embodiments, such forces to the mouth are negligible or even unnoticeable in comparison to the prior art. This also means that angle 186′ can be further reduced or significantly increased and still be significantly useful and comfortable for the user.

The relative positioning relative to the teeth and chin of the user in FIG. 8b would be similar in situations where the shorter rearward extension of rearward portion 162 in FIGS. 7a and 7b is used by a person having a longer chin and, or larger over bite. In other words, the usable conditions shown in FIG. 8b would permit the embodiment in FIGS. 7a and 7b to be useable for a person having a longer chin and, or larger overbite. This helps to show that one particular design can be used to provide useful benefits to a wide range of chin types and, or overbites. Preferably, in non-adjustable embodiments, the arrangement of chin rest member 138 relative to mouthpiece 30 is selected to fit the most common users and many user's outside of this range will experience useful benefits.

FIG. 9a shows a close up side view of breathing member 128 which is similar to the embodiment in FIGS. 7a and 7b, except that in FIG. 9a, rearward portion 162 is further forward than shown in FIGS. 7a and 7b. In FIG. 9a, a chin rest alignment 170″ is seen to be forward of alignments 170 and 170′ shown in FIGS. 7b and 8a, respectively. In addition, an angle 186″ is seen to be greater than angle 186 and 186′ shown in FIGS. 7b and 8a, respectively. This further forward position of rearward portion 162 can be used to accommodate users with longer chins and, or increased overbite on their front teeth.

FIG. 9b shows a side view of breathing member 132 shown in FIG. 9a, but within the mouth of a user. In this example, it can be seen that if the same user (same chin and overbite configurations) shown in FIG. 7a through 8b are used with this further forward position of rearward portion 162, such a user can still enjoy improved benefits from this version. In FIG. 9b, broken lines show a neutral position 190 and breathing member 124 has pivoted downward and inward from neutral position 190 and has come to a rest at a deflected position 194 after rearward portion 162 contacts the chin of the user. Such pivoting causes lower portion 94 of mouthpiece 30 to contact the lower front teeth and causes upper portion 90 to move outward and be spaced from the upper front teeth. Although this can cause the upper lip to be pushed out slightly, a significant portion of force 86 is preferably applied to the chin as supporting force 142 stops further pivoting of breathing member 124. Consequently, the remaining pressure on the upper lip is significantly low and upper portion 90 is still creating a good water tight seal with the upper lip. In comparison to FIGS. 1 and 2, FIG. 9b shows major improvements over the prior art. It is preferred that chin rest member 162 is positioned so that a significant portion of force 86 is applied to the chin and that mouthpiece 30 have a relatively comfortable orientation within the user's mouth that avoids excessive deformation of the soft tissues of the mouth and lips, avoids discomfort, avoids noticeable or irritating levels of misalignment of the contours of mouthpiece 30 with the contours of the user's mouth, and/or is within a range that provides significant comfort and relaxation.

The relative positioning relative to the teeth and chin of the user in FIG. 9b would be similar in situations where the positioning of rearward portion 162 in FIGS. 7a and 7b is used by a person having a shorter chin and, or reduced over bite. In other words, the usable conditions shown in FIG. 9b would permit the embodiment in FIGS. 7a and 7b to be useable for a person having a shorter chin and, or reduced over bite. This helps to show that one particular design can be used to provide useful benefits to a wide range of chin types and, or overbites. Preferably, in non-adjustable embodiments, the arrangement of chin rest member 138 relative to mouthpiece 30 is selected to fit the most common users and many user's outside of this range will experience useful benefits.

FIGS. 7a to 9b show that while adjustments can be made to the positioning of chin rest member 162 to accommodate different length chins and, or overbites for a more fine tuned fit, a significant ranges of less than perfect fits can still provide substantial comfort and benefits. This means that although adjustable or different size versions can be made available, a fixed version set for median or most common chin sizes and, or overbite angles can provide substantial benefits to a majority of users. The preferred angles and methods for positioning chin rest member 162 can be used to select a fixed arrangement that can be used by practically all users and give major benefits to most, and provide a maximum benefits to the majority having little variation from the median chin and overbite types.

FIG. 10 shows a side perspective view of an alternate embodiment. In this example, breathing member 124 is in the form of an alternate embodiment of snorkel 38. In this example, mouthpiece 30 is connected to snorkel 38 with a bent tube 198 which is arranged to permit mouthpiece 30 to be oriented at a predetermined angle to lower portion 42 of snorkel 38. In this example, mouthpiece 30 is oriented at a substantially horizontal alignment relative to the substantially vertical alignment of lower portion 42. This permits chin rest member 38 to be positioned relative to mouthpiece 30 so as to permit chin rest member 38 to contact the chin of the user when mouthpiece 30 is retained within the user's mouth.

FIG. 10 permits U-shaped member 70 to be seen from a perspective view. U-shaped member 70 is seen to have a sealing flange 200 that preferably rests between the user's lips and the teeth and gums to create a water tight seal. Preferably, sealing flange is made with a relatively flexible material that can contour to the soft tissues of the mouth and reduce or avoid abrasion; however, in alternate embodiments, relatively stiffer materials may be used as well. In other embodiments, U-shaped member 70 and sealing flange can be avoided entirely and only bite tabs 66 (in any shape or form) can be used as the user's lips create a seal around bent tube 198 (which can be a straight tube in alternate embodiments) and, or tube 34. In such an embodiment, it is preferred that gap 154 is provided in some suitable shape or manner sufficient to avoid excessive compression to the tissue of the lower tip as any suitable form of chin rest member 138 contacts the chin of the user during use.

FIG. 11a shows a cross section view taken along the line 11-11 in FIG. 10. In FIG. 11a, mouthpiece 30 has a mouthpiece alignment 202 that is at an angle 206 to a lower portion vertical alignment 210. In this embodiment, angle 206 is seen to be substantially perpendicular to the lower portion vertical alignment 210; however, in alternate embodiments, angle 206 can be any desired angle. In this embodiment, angle 206 is created by bent tube 198; however, in alternate embodiments, angle 206 may be created by any method, part or component and the use of bent tube 198 can be reduced or even eliminated completely if desired. When used, bent tube 198 may have a bend that is oriented at any desired angle to fully form or partially form angle 206. In some preferred embodiments, angle 206 can be between the ranges of 60 to 90 degrees, or 70 and 90 degrees. Other embodiments can have angle 206 be between the ranges of 45 and 60 degrees or 60 and 80 degrees. In other alternate embodiments, angle 206 can be between 70 and 100 degrees, 70 and 110 degrees or 70 and 120 degrees.

While lower portion 42 in this embodiment is seen to have a relatively vertical alignment, in alternate embodiments, such vertical alignment can exist from a side view while the vertical alignment from a front or rear view can be inclined at an angle in a side-to-side direction if desired.

In FIG. 11a, bent tube 198 is seen to fit over breathing tube 34 to form a mechanical connection; however, mouthpiece 30 may be connected to breathing member 124 in any suitable manner. Passageway 98 seen below breathing tube 34 is formed as upper portion 54 of snorkel 38 connects to lower portion 42. In alternate embodiments, upper portion 54 can join bent tube 198 if desired. Chin rest member 138 is seen to be a convexly curved portion of lower portion 42 of snorkel 38.

FIG. 11b shows an alternate embodiment of the cross section view shown in FIG. 11a. In FIG. 11b, mouthpiece 30 is angled slightly upward and angle 206 is seen to be less than shown in FIG. 11a. In the embodiment in FIG. 11b, chin rest member is seen to be made with a relatively softer material 214 that is connected to a relatively harder material 218 that is used to make lower portion 42. Preferably, softer material 214 is a relatively soft thermoplastic material and harder material 218 is a relatively harder thermoplastic material. Preferably, material 214 is connected to material 218 with a thermo chemical bond created during a phase of an injection molding process; however, any mechanical and, or chemical bond may be used. This embodiment can permit softer portion 214 to be soft on the skin of the chin and can also be used to create increased cushioning within chin rest member 138 if desired.

FIG. 11c shows an alternate embodiment of the cross section view shown in FIG. 11b. In FIG. 11c, chin rest member 138 is seen to be made with softer material 214, which is connected to a region of lower portion 42 near mouthpiece 30 that is made with harder material 218. In this embodiment, chin rest member 138 can be made sufficiently flexible to permit member 138 to flex during use within a predetermined range to shape to the chin of the user and, or provide cushioning and increased comfort during use.

FIG. 12 shows a perspective view of an alternate embodiment that is similar to the embodiments shown in FIGS. 10 to 11c. Mouthpiece 30 is seen to have a relatively straight tube connector 222 that extends approximately perpendicular to the vertical alignment of lower portion 42 of snorkel 38; however, mouthpiece 30 can be aligned at any suitable angle relative to a given alignment of lower portion 42. Mouthpiece 30 is connected to breathing device member 124 with breathing tube 34; however, any method of connecting mouthpiece 30 to member 124 may be used. In this example, chin rest member 138 is seen to extend rearward from lower portion 42. Member 138 is preferably made with a relatively soft material to provide cushioning and, or contouring to the chin; however, relatively stiff materials may be used as well. Preferably, at least one portion of chin rest member 138 is made with a relatively soft material having a Shore A hardness that is less than 80 durometer; however, embodiments may be used with a shore A hardness that is greater than 80 durometer. In some preferred embodiments, at least one portion of chin rest member 138 is made with a relatively soft material having a Shore A hardness that is less than 60 durometer, less than 50 durometer, less than 40 durometer or less than 30 durometer. In other embodiments, a Shore A hardness between 30 and 50, between 20 and 30, or between 2 and 20 may be used; however, any level of hardness may be used. In this example, the rearward surface of member 138 is seen to have convex curved shaped around a transverse axis and this is preferably can be used to reduce point pressures that could be created by corners and, or can be used to provide permit contouring to the convex curved portion of the user's chin and, or can be used to accommodate various chin types with comfort; however, any shape or contour may be used.

In this embodiment, connector 222 of mouthpiece 30 includes an adjustment member 236 which is a movable region that is arranged to permit the position of mouthpiece 30 to be adjusted relative to the position of chin rest member 138 in order to permit adjustments for different users having different chin sizes and, or overbite angles. In FIG. 12, mouthpiece 30 is seen to be in a retracted position 226 and broken lines show an extended position 230 to provide a predetermined range of movement 234. In this example, predetermined range of movement 234 is arranged to provide a telescoping movement for mouthpiece 30; however, in alternate embodiments range of movement 234 may occur in any suitable manner, direction, or orientation or arrangement. For example, range of movement 234 can be arranged to provide pivotal motion around a transverse axis. Any method or manner for providing relative movement 234 in any direction and range that permits the position of mouthpiece 30 to be adjusted relative to the position of chin rest member 138 in order permit chin rest member 138 to contact the chin of the user during use and, or to adjust the fit to a particular user.

FIG. 13a shows a top view of mouthpiece 30 shown in FIG. 12 which is separated from breathing tube 34 in FIG. 13a. In FIG. 13a, breathing tube 34 and connector 222 include are made movable with adjustable member 236. In this embodiment, adjustable member 236 on connector 222 includes internal recesses 238 disposed within the inner surface of connector 222 along internal passageway 98. Connector 222 has a forward end 242. Tube 34 is seen to have a connection portion 246, and rearward end 250 and ridges 254. In this example, adjustable member 236 on tube 34 include ridges 254 that are arranged to mate in different positions with recesses 238 in connector 222 of mouthpiece 30 to provide an adjustable connection and a water tight seal when connection portion 246 is inserted into passageway 98 of mouthpiece 30. In this embodiment, a plurality of ridges 254 are used on connection portion 246; however, in alternate embodiments, only one ridge 254 or no ridges 254 at all can be utilized if desired.

In other embodiments, adjustable member 236 can include at least one ridge member 254 that is used to provide a stop member that is arranged to prevent connector 222 from unintentionally coming off connection portion 246 of breathing tube 34 and connector 222 can be arranged to be able to slide back and forth on connection portion 246 within range 234 prior to being stopped by the stop member created by such at least one ridge member 254 in order to permit the position of mouthpiece 30 to be continuously adjustable within range 234. In such an example, connection portion 246 can be relatively smooth adjacent to such at least one ridge member 254 in order to permit relatively easy sliding and some degree of resistance can be provided by elastic tension provided by connector 222 on connection portion 246. If desired, much smaller intermediate ridges 254 can be used to provide a ratchet like adjustability with reduced effort over a plurality of larger ridges. In other alternate embodiments, adjustable member 236 can provided by arranging tube 34 to be movably attached to breathing device member 124 in any suitable manner so that connector 222 of mouthpiece 30 remains in a fixed condition relative to connection portion 246 of tube 34 while tube 34 is arranged to be movable relative to member 124 any suitable direction, manner, orientation, configuration or arrangement.

FIG. 13b shows mouthpiece 30 and connector of FIG. 13a in extended position 230 while mouthpiece 30 is connected to breathing tube 34. In this example, the first two ridges 254 of connection portion 246 are seen to be within connector 222 and rearward end 250 of breathing tube 34 is inserted part way into connector 222 within passageway 98. Extended position 230 within range 234 can be selected to accommodate users having longer chins and, or increased overbite angles and, or to adjust for when a diver uses a neoprene hood in cold water that extends forward from the chin of the user.

FIG. 13c shows the mouthpiece and connector of FIGS. 13a and 13b in retracted position 226. In FIG. 13c, rearward end 250 of breathing tube 34 is inserted all the way into connector 222. Retracted position 226 within range 234 can be selected to accommodate for users having shorter chins and, or smaller overbite angles.

FIGS. 13a to 13c show one example of a method for arranging mouthpiece 30 to be adjustable in a telescoping manner; however, any suitable method and, or mechanism can be used.

FIG. 14 shows a perspective view of an alternate embodiment in which breathing device member 124 is second stage scuba regulator 146, in which pressurized breathable gas is supplied from a gas hose In this example, straight tube 222 is used to connect mouthpiece 30 to regulator 146; however, any method, shape or angle of connection may be used. In this example, chin rest member 138 is seen to include an exhaust vent member 258 that is used to vent exhaled air, and a chin support member 262; however, in alternate embodiments member 138 can have any configuration, arrangement, combination of parts, positioning of parts and, or shape than can be used to contact the chin of the user while mouthpiece 30 is comfortably oriented within the user's mouth. In this example, chin support 262 is connected to a rearward surface 266 of exhaust member 258 so that chin support 262 extends sufficiently rearward to contact the chin of the user; however, chin rest member 138 may have any arrangement, configuration, shape, or manner of connection to member 124.

In this embodiment, the position of mouthpiece 30 is seen to be variably adjustable in a telescoping manner; however, any direction, orientation, or method for providing mouthpiece 30 with variable adjustability can be used. In FIG. 14, mouthpiece 30 is arranged to move within range 234 from retracted position 226 to extended position 230. Rather than using a plurality of interlocking ribs and recesses as shown in FIGS. 13a to 13c to provide a mechanical connection between connector 222 and breathing tube 34, the embodiment in FIG. 14 uses a tension band 270 around connector 222 to constrict connector 222 onto connection portion 246 (not shown) of breathing tube 34 that is inserted within connector 222. Tension band 270 can be a zip tie or any suitable tubing clamp. In this embodiment, adjustable member 236 includes tension band 270 which can be removed to permit the user to slide connector 222 in a telescoping manner forward or backward along connection portion 246 (not shown) of breathing tube 34 in order to permit chin rest member 138 to rest against the chin of the user while mouthpiece 30 is in a substantially comfortable position within the user's mouth, and then tension band 270 can applied and tightened to secure mouthpiece 30 in such a desired position.

In alternate embodiments, any method may be used for adjusting the position of mouthpiece 30 relative to chin rest member 138 to permit chin rest member 138 to contact the chin of the user and/or adjust such contact, and adjustable member 236 may be any suitable connection that permits such adjustment in any suitable direction, manner, degree, angle, arrangement, configuration and or alignment. Similarly, range of movement 234 can occur in any suitable direction, angle, alignment, direction, manner, amount or manner.

In alternate embodiments, rearward surface 266 of exhaust member 258 can be arranged to be positioned relative to mouthpiece 30 so as to contact the chin of the user with or without support member 262. In other alternate embodiments, the position of chin support member 262 and, or rearward surface 266 and, or exhaust member 258 and, or chin rest member 138 can be arranged to be variably adjustable in any manner relative to the position of breathing device member 124 and, or mouthpiece 30.

In FIG. 14, chin support member 262 is seen to have a rearward surface 274 that has a concave curved contour around a vertical axis. This can be used to contour to the curved contour of the chin of a user around a vertical axis. This can also be used to at least partially wrap around the sides of the user's chin to provide for increased comfort and, or lateral stability. In this example, chin support member 262 has a width that is narrower than rearward surface 266 of exhaust member 258; however, in alternate embodiments, chin support member 262 can extend over the entire width of rearward surface 266 or be wider than rearward surface 266. Preferably, support member 262 is made with a relatively soft material to provide cushioning and, or contouring and, or a soft texture to the chin of the user; however, any material having any level of stiffness or flexibility may be used. Chin support member 262 may be permanently secured, removably attached, replaceable with different size chin support members 262 or may be made movable relative to the chin of the user and, or breathing device member 124 and, or mouthpiece 30.

FIG. 15 shows an alternate embodiment cross section view taken along the line 15-15 in FIG. 14, in which adjustable member 236 in FIG. 15 is arranged to permit tube 34 to be movable. In this alternate embodiment, tube 34 is arranged to be retractable and, or extendable along a substantially lengthwise axis. Connector 222 is attached to connection portion 246 with tension band 270; however, any suitable method of connection may be used. Tube 34 is seen to extend inside of breathing device member 124, which in this example is regulator 146. Member 124 is seen to have internal tracking members 282 that are arrange to guide the movement of tube 34 through range 234. In side passageway 98 within tube 34 is seen to be a tracking tube member 286 that is also arranged to guide the movement of tube 34 within range 234. Tracking members 282 and tube member 286 are seen to have sealing members 290, which in this example are O-rings around the interior and exterior of tube 34 within breathing device member 124. Sealing members 290 provide a water tight seal between tube 34 and breathing device member 124. Preferably, sealing members 290 will be sufficiently compressed during use to provide some friction and resistance to movement for tube 34 so that the user can push or pull mouthpiece 30 to a preferred position and then tube 34 will have sufficient resistance to further movement to permit mouthpiece 30 to retain such an adjusted position during use. In alternate embodiments, any suitable locking device may be used to hold a particular adjusted position stable during use. In other embodiments, a series of notches and, or ridges may be used to create ratchet-like movement that have increased resistance to movement between such notches and ridges.

In FIG. 15, mouthpiece 30 is seen to be in retracted position 226 and broken lines show the position of extended position 230. Tube 34 is seen to have an extension stopping member 294 that is arranged to contact breathing device member 124 and stop further extension when mouthpiece 30 has reached extended position 230. Tube 34 is seen to have a retraction stopping member 298 that is arranged to contact breathing device member 124 and stop further retraction when mouthpiece 30 has reached retracted position 266. In FIG. 15, retraction stopping member 298 is in contact with the end of tube 286 due to being in retracted position 266; however, in alternate embodiments, any method for stopping and, or restraining movement of mouthpiece 30 may be used.

FIG. 16 shows the same cross sectional view of the alternate embodiment shown in FIG. 15, except that mouthpiece 30 is shown in extended position 230. In this view, stopping member 294 is in contact with breathing device member 124 due to mouthpiece 30 being in extended position 230.

FIGS. 17 to 23 show side views of alternate embodiments for breathing device member 124, which can be used for any type of breathing device member 124, including snorkels, regulators or any other suitable underwater air supply device.

FIG. 17 shows a side view of breathing device member 124 in which adjustable member 236 is a pivoting member 302. In this embodiment, pivoting member 302 is a pivotal joint member 306 that is connected between tube 34 and breathing device member 134. In this example, pivotal joint member 306, which can be similarly constructed as a common ball joint (or can even be one) except that preferably, pivotal joint member 306 is arranged to be more of a cylindrical tube than a ball so that pivotal motion occurs around a transverse axis having a transverse focal point 310 rather than pivoting in all directions like a universal ball joint. Furthermore, once pivotal joint member 306 is pivoted to a desired position in which at least one portion of breathing device member 124 can rest against at least one portion of the chin area of the user, it is preferred that pivotal joint member 306 be provided with sufficient internal friction or bending resistance to stay in such an adjusted position during normal use without pivoting out of such position. Alternatively, a suitable locking device and, or ratchet connection may be used to secure pivoting tube joint 306 in a desired position. Preferably, pivotal joint member 306 is a hollow joint that permits breathable air to pass through internally from breathing device member 124 to mouthpiece 30 while being sufficiently water tight to prevent surrounding water from entering from the exterior of joint 306. Preferably, any flexible gasket and, or O-ring configuration may be used to create a water tight seal within pivotal joint member 306.

The view in FIG. 17 shows that pivotal joint member 306 is arranged to permit breathing device member 124 to experience pivotal motion relative to mouthpiece 30 and move from retracted position 226 to extended position 230 within predetermined range of motion 234. Because mouthpiece 30 is preferably held stable within the mouth of the user during use, the user can hold breathing device member 124 with one hand and pull member 124 to pivot it away from the chin toward retracted position 226 so as to accommodate for a longer chin dimension relative to the user's mouth and, or to accommodate for a larger overbite, or the user can push member 124 to pivot it toward extended position 230 so as to move chin rest member 138 toward the chin to accommodate for a shorter chin length and, or a smaller overbite. These adjustments can also be made to fine tune the alignment of mouthpiece 30 within the mouth of the user as chin rest member 138 rests against the chin of the user. Because pivotal joint member 306 is preferred to have sufficient bending resistance and, or a sufficient locking device and, or sufficient ratchet-like adjustments, pivotal joint member 306 would preferably remain in a predetermined adjusted position selected by the user during use and not bend out of such position under normal operating loads. This is important because the position of chin rest member 138 should preferably remain sufficiently stable during use so that a significant amount of the loading forces applied to breathing device member 124 during use are able to be applied to the chin of the user while mouthpiece 30 can remain in a relatively comfortable orientation in the mouth. Arranging joint member to remain in a selected position under ordinary loads created during use is important so that the relative positions of mouthpiece 30 and chin rest member 138 remain relatively stable as loading forces created during use are transferred between mouthpiece 30 and chin rest member 138.

While the prior art has provided pivotal connections between a mouthpiece and a breathing device, such pivotal connections have not been used as a method to permit a portion of the breathing device to contact the chin of the user so as to reduce jaw fatigue or increase stability of the mouthpiece within the user's mouth. While the embodiment in FIG. 17 shows pivotal joint member 30 being located between tube 34 and the upper portion of breathing device member 124, in alternate embodiments pivotal joint member 306 may have any shape, arrangement, configuration, placement, positioning, orientation, direction of movement or method of construction. In alternate embodiments, any suitable water tight pivoting joint may be used in location to provide a pivotal connection between the relative positions of mouthpiece 30 and chin rest member 138. For example, chin rest member 138 can be pivotally connected to any portion of breathing device member 124 using any type of connection that permits pivotal movement between member 138 and member 124.

FIG. 18 shows a side view of the same embodiment shown in FIG. 17 except that pivotal joint member 306 is shown to permit mouthpiece 30 to pivot through range 234 while breathing device member 124 is held stable. This type of movement can occur as chin rest member 138 is held stable against the chin of the user and the user can pivot the orientation of mouthpiece 30 to achieved varied alignment with the contours of the user's mouth for maximum comfort. In alternate embodiments, any suitable method or device may be used to provide pivotal motion and adjustability to the position of mouthpiece 30 relative to chin rest member 138.

FIG. 19 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment in which chin rest member 138 is retractable and extendable. In this example, chin rest member 138 is connected to breathing device member 124 with a retractable member 314 which extends into member 124 as shown by dotted lines. In this example, retractable member 314 has ridges 318 to provide ratcheted adjustment to the position of chin rest member 138 as retractable member 3154 extends into and out of a suitably mating pathway within breathing device member 124. Chin rest member is shown in extended position 230 and broken lines show a flexed position 322 to show that in this example, chin rest has a predetermined amount of flexibility during use as loads are applied to chin rest member 138; however, chin rest member 138 can be arranged to have any degree of flexibility or stiffness. Chin rest member 138 is seen to have range of motion 234 between extended position 230 and retracted position 266, which is shown by broken lines. In alternate embodiments, retractable member 314 may be curved rather than straight, or may have any shape, orientation, configuration, alignment or arrangement. Chin rest member 138 is seen to be curved; however any shape may be used.

FIG. 20 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is retractable and extendable. In this example, chin rest member 138 is connected to breathing device member 124 with retractable member 314 that extends into breathing device member 124. In this embodiment, retractable member 314 has helical threads 326 that permit chin rest member 138 to move within range 234 between retracted position 226 and extended position 230 as chin rest member 138 and retractable member 314 are turned around the lengthwise axis of retractable member 314 like a screw due to threads 236. Preferably, some degree of friction or resistance would be provided to prevent retractable member from spinning and changing position unintentionally during use. In alternate embodiments, chin rest member 138 and, or retractable member 314 can be removable and, or replaceable with alternate parts having varied sizes, dimensions, shapes, flexibility, compressibility, softness, stiffness, contour or any other characteristic.

FIG. 21 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment in which chin rest member 138 can be rotated and, or removed. In this embodiment, adjustable member 236 includes chin rest member 138 that has a larger chin rest portion 330 and a smaller chin rest portion 334 that are spaced apart and connected by a band 338 that extends laterally around breathing device member 124. In this embodiment, it is preferred that portion 330, portion 334 and band 338 are molded integrally with a relatively soft and elastic material so that portions 330 and 334 are relatively soft and band 338 is elastic to permit band 338 to expand when being placed around member 124 and then contract to grip a selected position along member 124; however, member 138 may have any shape, method of connection, method of adjustment, combination of materials, type of materials, range of movement, number of selected positions, arrangement or configuration. This example permits chin rest member 138 to be movable over range of movement 234 which is seen to be both rotational and vertical. The rotational movement over range 234 permits chin rest member 138 to rotate between a first position 342 that is shown by solid lines and a second position 346 shown by broken lines. Second position 346 permits the positions of larger portion 342 and smaller portion 346 to be changeable to further accommodate users having different chin lengths and, or overbites. Also, chin rest member 138 may be removed from member 124 if desired by sliding member 138 vertically off of member 124 to a removed position 350 so that member 138 is can be replaced or can be not used at all if desired. The vertical direction of range of motion 234 is seen to permit chin rest member 138 to be removed as shown by removed position 250 and also permits chin rest member to move vertically along member 124 such as to a higher position 354. Chin rest member 138 can be arranged to have any number of chin rest portions of varying sizes and can be movable in any direction to permit further adjustment to individual users.

FIG. 22 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment in which chin rest member 138 is deformable. In this embodiment, member 138 is seen to be moveable from first position 342 shown by solid lines to second position 346 shown by broken lines. In this embodiment, second position 346 is created by deforming chin rest member 138. Such deformation can either be arranged to adjustable by using a material that has poor memory characteristics, such as a low memory thermoplastic, that can be continuously bent and reshaped and remain in a selected bent configuration, or alternatively, a highly flexible and elastic material can be used having a significantly memory so that such deformation occurs automatically as the user's chin contacts chin rest member 138 to provide automatic contouring, shaping and, or cushioning.

FIG. 23 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment breathing device having a chin rest member that is removable. In this example, chin rest member 138 is removable as shown by removed position 350. Chin rest member 138 is seen to have a securing portion 358, which in this example includes a rod member 362 and a stop member 366 which are preferably made with a relatively flexible material that can be inserted into a suitable hole or cavity within breathing device member 124 and stop member 366 can expand within member 124 to prevent chin rest member 138 from separating from breathing device member 124 unless intentionally removed. This embodiment can permit different size chin rest members 138 to be interchanged and replaced or removed entirely if desired. In addition, chin rest member 138 is seen to have a second position 346 shown by broken lines to show that a given chin rest member 138 can be made with a deformable material and, or a relatively soft cushion that can adjust to the contours of the user' chin to any amount or degree if desired.

FIG. 24 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment in which chin rest member 138 is arranged to be movable in a substantially vertical direction within a track member 370 within member 124. In this embodiment, track member 370 is a recessed groove within member 124 and chin rest member 138 can be secured within track member 370 in any suitable manner; however, any suitable tracking system may be used to permit member 138 to slide along any portion or portions of the length of member 124 and preferably be locked, ratcheted or secured in any adjusted position. Chin rest member 138 is seen to be movable along range of motion 234 from first position 342 shown by solid lines to second position 346 shown by broken lines. In this embodiment, member 124 is angled so that range of motion 234 can occur both vertically and horizontally; however, in alternate embodiments any direction, angle, orientation, manner of movement or range of movement may be used. In this example, the angled alignment of track member 370 along member 124 can be used to permit a user having a smaller length chin and, or overbite to use a position near first position 342 while a user having a larger chin and, or overbite can move member 138 closer to second position 346. This can also permit member 138 to contact different portions of the user's chin such as just below the user's lower lip or nearer to the lower portions of the chin as desired.

FIG. 25 shows a side view of an alternate embodiment in which chin rest member 138 is arranged to be pivotally adjustable. In this embodiment, adjustable member 236 includes pivotal member 302, which in this example is a ratcheted hinge 347 which is connected to chin rest member 138 with a pivotal arm 372. Any suitable ratcheted hinge device may be used. In this example, ridges 318 are used between a first surface 378 and a second surface 382 to create ratcheted incremental adjustments within ratcheted hinge 347 as chin rest member 138 is rotated between first position 342 shown by solid lines and second position 346 shown by broken lines to permit extension and retraction of chin rest member 138 for further accommodating different chin and, or overbite types for different users. In alternate embodiments, ratcheted hinge member 374 can be replaced with any suitable incrementally or continuously adjustable device having any desired placement that is capable of adjusting the relative positions between mouthpiece 30 and chin rest member 138.

The embodiments shown in FIGS. 17 to 25 are only a few of the many variations possible using the methods of the present invention, and any other variation or combinations of variations may be used in any amount, degree or manner, including any of the individual variations of any of the embodiments in this description or any other suitable variations.

SUMMARY, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE

Accordingly, the reader will see that the methods of the present invention provide many advantages in that they can:

    • (a) provide methods and design that create reduced jaw fatigue;
    • (b) provide reduced movement of a snorkels and diving regulators during use;
    • (c) provide reduced chaffing and abrasion against soft tissues of the mouth;
    • (d) provide reduced deformation as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (e) provide improved water tight seal during diving as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (f) provide improved alignment of airflow through the passageway of the mouthpiece relative to the alignment of the airway through the swimmer's mouth as loads are applied to the device that the mouthpiece is coupled to;
    • (g) provide increased longevity and reduced structural failure under biting tension;
    • (h) provide increased security of the mouthpiece during use;
    • (i) provide reduced need for biting tension to retain mouthpieces;
    • (j) provide improved structural stability;
    • (k) provide improved alignment of contoured surfaces with the contours of the mouth, teeth, lips and gums;
    • (l) provide increased comfort for increased dive duration and increased repeat dives;
    • (m) provide increased diving enjoyment and relaxation;
    • (n) provide methods for opposing loads applied to snorkels and regulators during swimming with reduced effort and increased comfort;
    • (o) provide methods for resting snorkels and regulators on the user's chin below the lower lip without avoiding discomfort to such lower lip while using U-shaped flexible mouthpieces within the mouth to create water tight seals inside of the user's mouth relative to the surrounding water;
    • (p) provide methods for reducing deformation to the swimmer's lower lip during use;
    • (q) provide methods reducing or even eliminating the need for the user to bit down on the mouthpiece being held inside of the mouth during use;
    • (r) provide methods and designs for providing adjustability of a chin rest for different size chins and, or overbite types; and
    • (s) provide methods for providing a chin support member that can rest against the chin of the user during use to reduce or even eliminate excessive torsional forces to a mouthpiece being held inside the mouth of a user during use;
    • (t) provide methods for providing a relatively soft and compressible material connected to a snorkel or regulator for providing a chin support member that can rest against the chin of the user during use as a mouthpiece is held inside the mouth of the user; and
    • (u) provide still further objects and objectives as apparent from a consideration of the description and drawings.

Although the description above contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. For example, while the description gives examples for diving mouthpieces and underwater breathing devices, in alternate embodiments, any of the methods of the present invention can be used for any type of mouthpiece. This can include ventilation tubes, tracheal tubes, feeding tubes, or any other type of device connected to a mouthpiece.

In alternate embodiments, the mouthpiece can have any form, shape, contour, arrangement or configuration suitable for allowing the user to retain the mouthpiece within the mouth. For example, in alternate embodiments, the bite tabs may have any shape, size, arrangement or configuration or may be not used at all. In addition, the use of a U-shaped member can be substituted for any suitable mouth engaging member that can provide a usable connection with the user's mouth. In addition, a U-shaped member can be provided by inserting a flexible planar or non-U-shaped member into the mouth, which becomes U-shaped after inserted into the mouth due to flexing and contouring to the user's mouth. In other embodiments any type of sealing flange or portion can be used to create a water tight seal with the user's lips or inside of the user's lips in any suitable manner.

In addition, it is intended that any of the embodiments and individual variations discussed in the above description may be interchanged and combined with one another in any desirable order, amount, arrangement, or configuration, and are included by reference to each other individual variation and embodiment.

Accordingly, the scope of the invention should not be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.