A dental device that treats sleep apnea

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by KING 5 HealthLink

KING5.com

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 11 at 7:12 PM

Did you ever think the dentist could help you get a better night’s sleep?

While the most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a C-PAP machine, some patients are trying a different approach. It all starts with a trip to the dentist.

Ted Durkee is seeing his dentist - not because of a tooth ache, but for sleep apnea.

“I always had problems with dozing off in the afternoon in the office and people would joke about that,” said Durkee.

Ted suffered for years, until he finally decided to participate in a home sleep study.

“I didn’t have to go for two nights at a different location. I could sleep in my own bed,” Durkee explained.

The test showed he has sleep apnea. His doctor prescribed oral appliance therapy. A mouth appliance moves Durkee’s jaw forward to help him breathe easier while sleeping.

“Mr. Durkee was the ideal patient because he has… he’s on the mild end of apnea,” said Dr. Gretchen Zody, Dentist/Sleep Expert.

Dr. Zody said she can see signs of sleep apnea just by looking into the mouths.

“Their tongue can be scalloped along the edges so you can actually see the indentations of the teeth,” Dr. Zody explained.

That’s because patients push their tongue forward to clear their airway. Other signs include bruxism, grinding of the teeth, acid reflux and snoring.

It took a few weeks for Durkee to notice a difference, but now his oxygen levels are back to normal and he hasn't had any side effects.

“I have a lot more energy,” Durkee said. “The bags under my eyes are not as severe as they have been in the past.”

There are a number of difference oral appliances available. The treatment works best for those with less severe cases of sleep apnea.

Most insurance companies will cover the device, but patients first must prove they cannot tolerate the C-PAP.     Without insurance the treatment will cost about $2,500.

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