A collaboration between researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Australian dental company Oventus has led to the invention of a personalized mouthpiece that prevents dangerous pauses in breath during sleep.
Many individuals face breathing difficulties or pauses during sleep because their air passage in the throat is blocked. This is a disorder known as sleep apnea, which if left untreated can increase the risk of other diseases including high blood pressure and stroke. Extant treatments include devices that push the lower jaw forward to open up the airway or a face mask that creates a continuous flow of air.
The new mouthpiece, which is printed from titanium after a personal 3D scan and subsequently coated with medical grade plastic, is customized for each patient. It has a duckbill that extends from the mouth like a whistle, and is, according to Oventus CEO Neil Anderson, “used only on the top teeth which makes it more compact and far more comfortable.”
“The new 3D printed mouthpiece bypasses all obstructions by having airways that deliver air to the back of the throat and it will also stop patients from snoring,” said Anderson.
According to CSIRO, the device is expected to be available to patients next year.
An estimated one million Australians suffer from sleep apnea, and – conceivably true of many other countries as well – this number may increase due to growing obesity levels and an aging population.