There are 3 types of sleep apnea, obstructive, central and mixed. Most cases of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea where the soft tissues of the throat block a patient's airway. Patients with sleep apnea have an increased incidence of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Physicians usually prescribe a CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure, unit for patients to wear when they sleep which will keep their airway open.
However, some patients are unable to tolerate wearing the CPAP device. Dentists can offer these patients appliance therapy to manage their sleep apnea. The Thorton Adjustable Positioner (TAP) appliance is one such appliance that can help keep the patient's airway open. The TAP appliance positions the mandible forward to maintain a clear airway during sleep. The TAP appliance is fabricated by Glidewell Laboratories and Airway Management Lab. Any patient that uses a TAP appliance to manage their sleep apnea should have their sleep study repeated with their TAP appliance in place to confirm that the appliance is doing its job. I have used this appliance to help my patients successfully manage their sleep apnea when they could not wear the CPAP device. If you have any patients who are in need of an alternative to the CPAP unit, give the TAP appliance a try.
Cynthia Jetter, DMD, owns a private laser dentistry practice with her husband, Donald W. Jetter, DMD, in Voorhees, New Jersey and is a Product Evaluator for Dental Product Shopper.