Imagine choking and gasping for air every time you fall asleep. Between 18 and 20 million people in the United States suffer from these frightening symptoms because of common disorder called sleep apnea. Because of a lack of awareness among both health professionals and the public, up to 90 percent of suffers are not diagnosed or treated. People with sleep apnea literally stop breathing hundreds of times a night. Sufferers experience snoring, drowsiness during the day, lost productivity at work and much more. People suffering from sleep apnea are at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, obesity and diabetes. Four out of five sleep apnea cases involve a physical obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, while in the remaining cases the drive to breathe is reduced during sleep. Sleep apnea is estimated to affect as many as one in every four adults making it a national health issue.
Four out of five sleep apnea cases involve a physical obstruction of the upper airway during sleep.
One treatment option is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. The machine which consists of a face mask connected to tubes that blows air down a patient’s throat during sleep to keep the airway open can be cumbersome and noisy. Although the CPAP is considered to be the gold standard in treating sleep apnea and is very effective, compliance by patients is well below 50 percent.
It was previously thought that treatment for patients suffering from severe sleep apnea was limited to use of the CPAP or surgery. However, current research is being done on a new appliance called the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP). The studies have shown that the TAP device, which is much smaller and fits in a patient’s mouth, in now an option for patients with severe sleep apnea. The TAP device pulls the patients lower jaw forward, thus creating an open airway in the throat. 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 research study have reported sleeping better, feeling more rested in the morning and altogether healthier. It takes both dentist and medical professionals working together to control this potentially deadly disorder. The TAP gives patients another viable treatment alternative.