Putting sleep apnoea to bed with 3D mouthguard

A new 3D printed mouthguard is set to end the suffering for thousands of sleep apnoea patients.

The Challenge

Solving sleep problems with 3D printing

Sleep apnoea occurs when the air passage in the throat becomes blocked during sleep and causes people to stop breathing.

The CSIRO-developed mouthguard for aiding sleep apnoea sufferers

In severe cases, people can suffer hundreds of events per night.

An estimated one million Australians suffer from the disorder, which can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and diabetes. This number is expected to increase due to growing obesity levels and an aging population.

Traditional treatments can be problematic for patients, with issues such as chronic jaw pain, teeth loosening, teeth wear, ongoing adjustment or nasal obstruction causing many to stop wearing their device.

Better treatments that overcome these limitations would benefit the growing number of sleep apnoea sufferers worldwide.

Our Response

Teaming up with dental experts to deliver

Using a 3D scanner to map a patient's mouth, our researchers and Australian dental company, Oventus , can now print a mouthpiece which prevents dangerous pauses in breath during sleep.

Printed from lightweight titanium and coated with a medical grade plastic, the breakthrough mouthpiece is customised for each patient.

The world-first device has a 'duckbill' which extends from the mouth like a whistle and divides into two separate airways. It allows air to flow through to the back of the throat, avoiding obstructions from the nose, the back of the mouth and tongue.

The device is effective as a standalone technology or can be connected to a continuous positive airway pressure machine for more advanced treatment.

Oventus sleep apnoea device

Show transcript

[Music plays and text appears:  Oventus sleep apnoea device]

[Image changes to show Maurice Hvorat and text appears:  Maurice Hvorat – user of Oventus sleep apnoea device]

Maurice Hvorat:  Snoring is not a problem if you’re planning on living your life on your own, but if you’re planning on sharing a bed with somebody then snoring can be a major issue.  So I’d been trying to find for years now an avenue that I could stop snoring with, and over the years I’ve tried different other things, like other types of appliances to put in your mouth, but with very limited success.  And at this point a little while ago I found, I think it was on the internet, something about the Oventus thing being developed with CSIRO, and I thought look, it’s worth a try.  So I joined up straightaway, got my appliance a couple of weeks ago, and had nothing but success since.

[Image changes to show Maurice opening a bag containing the Oventus appliance]

So probably the happiest person in the world is probably not me, it’s probably my wife (chuckles), with not having to worry about earplugs or having to race off to bed earlier, or you know the potential of having to go and sleep somewhere else to get through the night.

[Image changes back to Maurice Hvorat]

So, yeah, no it’s been a wonderful thing.  Fantastic.  Because of the moulding that’s done on your teeth it obviously fits like a glove as you put it on, and it sits snugly in your mouth.

[Image changes to show a close up view of the Oventus mouthpiece]

It takes really no getting use to at all.

[Image changes back to Maurice Hvorat]

I think it’s just a little bit of a nuisance perhaps the first couple of minutes you’ve got it in your mouth ‘til your jaw reorganises itself to adapt to being pushed forward, or into the position that it’s pushed into, but then after that’s settled in, yeah, fine, no... there’s no discomfort really.  It’s just a nice, comfortable, easy feeling.

Yeah, I don’t know how 3D printers work, but it’s miraculous, isn’t it, just quite remarkable how that can happen.  But, yeah, look it’s very comfortable, it’s incredibly light, yeah, it has no weight virtually at all.  It fits, like I said, like a glove once it’s been fitted to you personally, and it’s very, very smooth on the inside.  One of the issues that I’ve had with other appliances in the past was they have areas where they adjust different parts of the appliance, and those areas are little areas of metal that your tongue can’t help but find, and you have a natural instinct to rub things that are difficult or sharp inside your mouth, so I found that when I was using other appliances, or one other appliance in particular, my tongue would be red raw by the morning, and still not be able to stop snoring, so there wasn’t much future there (chuckles).  Whereas this has no sharp edges, it’s all smooth, and it’s very comfortable through the night, you don’t find yourself rubbing your tongue across anything at all.

The first morning afterwards, I’m not sure if it’s because I had a different type of appliance in my mouth, or because I slept better, I’m hoping to be able to say because I slept better, I just found myself getting up earlier, much earlier than I normally would, feeling much brighter than I normally would, and getting involved in my exercise as early as possible.  So, yeah, I’m loving it.

[Image changes to show Maurice Hvorat cleaning a swimming pool]

And I found since then that I have been getting up considerably earlier and just enjoying my days a lot more.

[Image changes back to Maurice Hvorat]

And I think another part, too, is that one of the things I use to find that I use to do a lot of before was having afternoon naps just because I was tired, but now I find that I’m getting through the day feeling much more energetic and much more awake than what I did before.  I go down to the beach, I walk for about, I guess it’s about seven or eight k’s every morning, then I come back and have my breakfast and get on with the day.

[Image changes to show Maurice Hvorat preparing and eating breakfast in the kitchen]

Where before I was a bit slack, I was probably getting up about eight, nine, that sort of time, whereas now I’m more around the six, seven mark and going straight to the beach, getting back.  It gives a lot more hours in my day.

[Image changes back to Maurice Hvorat]

My main concern was really just snoring and making my partner uncomfortable, and making her life difficult.  Like that’s what I didn’t want to do.  The sleep apnoea part was really not much of an issue for me from my perspective, but now that I’ve learnt more about the sleep apnoea part I’m finding that I’m particularly happy that I’ve gone down this road, because if this is able to relieve my apnoea as well as the snoring, well this is just a miracle.  Yeah, fantastic.  So it may give me a longer life, hopefully, give me a happier life with my wife, I mean what more do you want, really?  Fantastic.  Really happy.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

The Results

Relief is here for millions of sufferers

The Oventus Clearway Device is now available to patients in Australia through Oventus clinics, as a more effective and comfortable alternative to current products on the market.

In clinical trials, the Oventus Clearway Device showed a 50 to 90 per cent reduction in Apnoea Hypopnea Index (or API, which indicates the severity of sleep apnoea) in 75 per cent of patients. It was found to be more effective than other oral appliances and has an effect on oxygen levels comparable to continuous positive airway pressure technology.

Following these successful trial results, Oventus plans to take the device to the rest of the world, targeting the growing number of moderate to severe sufferers of sleep apnoea.

The Oventus Clearway Device retails for about $1,700 with rebates available from private health insurers.

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