MORE than one million Australians suffer from sleep apnoea and many more do not realise they have the life-threatening condition.
Bellevue Hill dentist David Digges was among them and only realised he had sleep apnoea — which causes victims to stop breathing during sleep — when he started prescribing a new dental device.
Dr Digges said the 3D-printed titanium mouthguard, called the O2VentTM T, has been a “game changer” in the treatment of the condition in his patients and, for the first time in his life, he is getting a good night’s sleep too.
“After I’d prescribed the first 100, I thought: ‘A lot of these people have similar issues to me’,” said Dr Digges, who was named Sydney City East NSW volunteer of the year last year for his pro-bono dental work.
“I was aware I was not sleeping well and initially I tried to use the excuse of busy working hours and getting up early but there was more to it than that,” he said.
“I had a sleep test and lo-and-behold it showed I had sleep apnoea.”
Dr Digges said the tailor-made mouthguard, designed by Australian company Oventus Medical, had a built in airway which bypassed obstructions in the mouth to get air directly to the back of patients’ throats.
The good news for long-suffering partners is a clinical study this year showed the technology eliminated or significantly reduced snoring in 100 per cent of patients.
“When this device was launched, I realised it was a game changer and a great alternative to the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, which is akin to wearing a ventilator,” he said.
“Most people want a better alternative that is more portable and less bulky because a lot of people get diagnosed and then the CPAP stays under the bed.
“If they don’t use it, they may as well not be diagnosed.”
Sleep apnoea causes death by cardiac arrest by starving the heart of oxygen.
“If it doesn’t kill you, it will gradually make you less healthy and reduce your life expectancy simply because you are not getting enough oxygen to your brain,” he said.