No More Darth Vader Mask to Manage ApneaJul 18, 2014
Interviewer: If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea there is an alternative to that mask and tank thing. We'll talk about that next on The Scope.
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Interviewer: Sleep apnea can be miserable and for people that have it, they're looking for a way to cure themselves, but sometimes they don't want to wear the mask to bed that's hooked to the air tank, or maybe it just doesn't work for them, but there is an alternative. We're with Dr. Bryce Williams; he's an oral surgeon in the Ear, Nose, and Throat department at University of Utah Health Care. Let's talk about this alternative to what they call a CPAP, which is basically that mask and tank. That's the first thing that people usually are given when diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Dr. Williams: Yes, that's right, and you know, it is a cure for sleep apnea, but unfortunately about 30 to 40 percent of patients that use it, they can't tolerate it for whatever reason, either they don't like wearing the mask, or they can't find a good fit, or their bed partner doesn't like all of the noise that it makes.
Interviewer: Sleeping with Darth Vader.
Dr. Williams: Exactly, yeah.
Interviewer: It's probably not that loud, I probably am being a little silly there.
Dr. Williams: It can be, you know, it can definitely disrupt sleep for sure.
Interviewer: So for a lot of people that's just not really an option; it's not going to work out for them, but what's your alternative that you have?
Dr. Williams: So another alternative that is successful in treating sleep apnea in some patients is a jaw re-positioning device. So it's basically a custom made splint that fits in the mouth that brings the jaw forward, which in turn brings the tongue forward, which in turn opens up the airway just like the CPAP machine does.
Interviewer: Okay, so is this like a mouthpiece type of a thing?
Dr. Williams: Exactly, you have to have dental impressions made, and those are sent to a lab, and you know, a week later you get the device back, and it's kind of adjusted to fit the desired amount or distance to advance your jaw in order to open up your airway.
Interviewer: So is part of the problem that some people might be having sleep apnea is because their jaw is not formed quite right, so they're not getting the air, and this fixes it, or does this? Do you get what I'm trying to ask?
Dr. Williams: Yes, yeah, you're right. Some patients have a small lower jaw, and that in turn doesn't give enough room for the tongue to sit in the mouth, so when they go to sleep the tongue relaxes, and falls back in the airway. With this device it brings the jaw and the tongue forward, opening up the airway, so that you know, you can breathe at night, get a sound sleep.
Interviewer: So this isn't for everybody.
Dr. Williams: It's not for everybody, patients with really large tongues, or very thick necks can get a little better with it, but it doesn't tend to offer them the same cure that CPAP does.
Interviewer: All right, and this is something that somebody like you can help them figure out.
Dr. Williams: Absolutely.
Interviewer: All right, and what kind of success do people have with this device? It sounds almost too simple to work well you know?
Dr. Williams: Exactly, well depending on if the correct patient is chosen you know, success can be up to 90% of a cure rate, and a lot of those patients can get off their CPAP machine. It all takes a meeting with the doctor, and then figuring out if you're the right patient for the appliance.
Interviewer: And what about cost on something like this?
Dr. Williams: Typically medical insurance will cover it, so the cost is usually nominal.
Interviewer: Okay. And tell me the kind of the difference it would make in somebody's life. Do you have any stories from patients?
Dr. Williams: Sure, yeah. I've had patients that snore very loud at night, or end up choking, and then their bed partner can't tolerate it, and they kick them out and make them sleep on the sofa. It's always nice to sleep in your own bed.
Interviewer: So it cures that snoring thing, and then also does sleep apnea, you're waking up numerous times, this will help prevent that as well.
Dr. Williams: Absolutely, yeah that, and you feel more rested during the day, and be able to function like a normal human being I guess.
Interviewer: And a lot of times this works better than the mask and the tank.
Dr. Williams: For sure, for those of you who like Star Wars, and sounding like Darth Vader it's a great thing, but most people don't prefer that I suppose.
Interviewer: All right, any final thoughts on this device?
Dr. Williams: I think it's important to explore different options when it comes to sleep apnea, and not give up. A lot of patients with sleep apnea get tired of looking for different things that can make them feel better, but there's certainly things out there, and this jaw re- positioning device is certainly one of them.
Interviewer: If somebody listening to this has any questions, what would you recommend that they do?
Dr. Williams: They can get on the internet and search out my name, Brice Williams, I'm on the University of Utah website. And you can find some additional information about sleep apnea there, and also my contact information. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
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