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Health Beat: Dental device for sleep apnea

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 27 2014 04:21:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2014 06:45:59 PM CDT

Twenty-two million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -

Ted Durkee, 67, 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," Durkee said.

He suffered for years, until he finally decided to participate in a home sleep study to evaluate his sleep patterns. The device measured his heart rate along with blood oxygen levels. The test revealed Durkee had low oxygen levels, which means he has sleep apnea.

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

His doctor prescribed oral appliance therapy, or OAT. It's a mouth appliance that 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, a dentist/sleep expert.

Zody said she can see signs of sleep apnea just by looking in her patients' mouths.

"Their tongue can be scalloped along the edges so you can actually see the indentations of the teeth," 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 he said now his oxygen levels are back to normal and he hasn’t experienced any side-effects.

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

Typically, most insurance companies will cover the treatment, but patients must prove they cannot tolerate the CPAP in order to get the appliance.  Without insurance, the treatment will cost about $2,500.

Patients who are not good candidates for the treatment are those who don't have enough teeth, because the appliance must hook onto a solid row of teeth.

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