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Oral Device Used to Treat Sleep Apnea

Jul 22, 2013, 6 a.m.

Sleep Apnea is a condition where a persons breathing is closed off for a period of time during sleep. Sometimes this can occur as much as 100 times in a night. Sleep apnea can increase chances for heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, depression, learning or memory loss and tiredness. Many times the person suffering from sleep apnea may not know it, but it is often the spouse who notices it first.

An 18-month study involving sleep apnea patients at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, is using an oral appliance called the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP) to treat those suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea. According to Dr. Paul McLornan, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, many patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea were not adhering to standard treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

Many factors including the noise, cumbersome attachments, bloody noses, and the lack of flexibility of different sleeping positions prevent many people from using their CPAP machine. Dr. McLornan’s study proves that the TAP device, which is smaller and fits in a patient’s mouth, is now an option for patients with mild, moderate and now even severe sleep apnea. He states that it was previously thought that treatment for patients suffering from severe sleep apnea was limited to the use of the CPAP or surgery. This study adds to the body of medical and dental research literature by showing that oral appliances can be effective in treating people with severe sleep apnea.

The device is less cumbersome, is better tolerated by patients, and is much less invasive and costly than the CPAP or surgery. Patients in the study were fitted with the TAP appliance and given a tiny key that fits in the front of the device. The patient was instructed to wear the appliance every night and to insert and turn the key several millimeters before bedtime. By turning the key, the patient pulls the lower jaw forward, thus creating an open airway in the throat. Patients then told the researchers when they reached a point in the adjustments that felt comfortable and when they felt they were able to sleep without snoring or gasping.

Then the patients were evaluated using standard sleep studies to determine whether or not their sleep had indeed improved. It was found that patients improved significantly using the TAP. (Source: Mission, UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, Spring 2009)

Dr. Farnsworth of Las Sendas Dental Health has been successfully using the TAP device to treat patients with sleep apnea since 2001. If or your significant other suffers from snoring or gasping while sleeping, they may be suffering from sleep apnea. Please call for an evaluation, and let us help you find a way to improve your health, and to get a full night of restful sleep again. For an appointment to evaluate your options please call 480-283-5854.

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