Sleep Tight

Mouth appliance brings sweet dreams to those with sleep apnea.

For Tom*, life was an endless latte.

He drank coffee after he woke up each morning; he drank coffee while he worked; and he drank coffee while he dabbled in his art. Tom drank coffee so much that he even had a fancy coffee machine to make sure the caffeine never stopped flowing.

“I used to drink coffee all day long to keep going,” says Tom, an IT specialist and artist. “I had a very expensive coffee machine like the ones that do espresso.”

A busy husband and father of two daughters, Tom had good reason to always keep a cup of joe within reach. He had headaches every morning and felt sluggish much of the day, symptoms that eventually led to him being referred to a sleep medicine specialist.

Tests performed by the specialist showed Tom’s symptoms were the result of moderate obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that occurs when a person’s throat muscles relax during sleep, allowing the soft tissue to collapse and block their airway.

As a result of the blockage, sleepers can stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more. Symptoms include snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, even acid reflux.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can also be life-threatening. It can increase the risk for serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and impotence.

Tom, who was experiencing several sleep apnea symptoms, was taking medicine for his acid reflux, but his snoring was so loud, it prompted his wife to wear earplugs. When their daughter was away at school, Tom’s wife would often move to the daughter’s bedroom so she could sleep undisturbed.

A few years ago, the sleep specialist recommended Tom use a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. Designed to keep the airways from collapsing, the CPAP device puts out a constant stream of air through a hose and mask that the person wears while they sleep. But Tom wanted no part of that.

“I couldn’t see myself wearing a mask while I was sleeping,” he says

One day, while performing some IT work at Blossom Dental and Facial Aesthetics, Tom heard the practice’s founder, Huda Aljonaidy, DDS, talking about sleep apnea. Tom told the dentist he had been diagnosed with the condition.

“Dr. Aljonaidy then told me that there is a device that would stop the sleep apnea and snoring,” Tom says. “It was when I heard her say stop snoring that it stuck with me because I know I snore very loud. So I said, Why not try it?

A Better Solution

At Blossom Dental and Facial Aesthetics, Dr. Aljonaidy offers comprehensive services that range from routine cleanings and fillings to crowns, veneers and dentures, teeth whitening, surgery, orthodontics, extractions and BOTOX® Cosmetic.

She also offers solutions for sleep apnea and says that Tom, like a lot of patients with the condition, did not fully understand the dangers of untreated sleep apnea until she explained them to him.

She further explained that a CPAP machine is the first line of treatment for sleep apnea and is very effective. But many patients simply can’t tolerate wearing a mask, cleaning the attachments or lugging the machine around while traveling, Dr. Aljonaidy says.

“It’s a killer for intimacy because the patient literally feels like they’re sleeping in a hospital bed every night,” says the dentist, who notes that 50 percent of all CPAP patients stop using the machine, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Fortunately, for patients who have mild to moderate sleep apnea but don’t want to use a CPAP machine, another option is available. Known as the SomnoDent® oral appliance, it can position the lower jaw and keep the airway open during sleep.

“If the case has been diagnosed to be mild to moderate, the oral appliance is exactly as effective as the CPAP,” Dr. Aljonaidy explains. “It’s comfortable, easy to wear and quiet. It’s a clinically proven alternative to CPAP, and it’s convenient for portability when you travel.”

Dr. Aljonaidy already had done some work to help Tom with his breathing. She used Invisalign® clear braces to properly align his bite and widen his arches. What remained was the management of the soft tissues such as the tongue, tonsils and the roof of the mouth.

“All of that sags when patients sleep,” notes Dr. Aljonaidy, who began that phase of the project by creating a digital impression of Tom’s mouth. Using that virtual model, an FDA-approved lab manufactured Tom’s sleep device. Dr. Aljonaidy then adjusted it to fit Tom’s jaw properly.

“It has to be as accurate as one-tenth of a millimeter,” Dr. Aljonaidy informs. “We bring the jaw to a certain position where he will breathe better, and the appliance’s job is simply to hold it in that position the entire night,” she says.

A New Believer

Dr. Aljonaidy worked closely with Dr. Dany Obeid, a pulmonologist specializing in Sleep Medicine at Advanced Sleep and Respiratory Institute. Tom experienced great results after getting his appliance.

“It really changed my life,” he says. It also changed his wife’s life.

“When I first started using the device, my wife had to check on me a couple of times to see if something was wrong because she didn’t hear me snoring,” he says. “She wanted to make sure I was okay.”

Tom is more than okay. His headaches are now a thing of the past, as is the tooth grinding that once wore holes in the retainer he began to wear after completing the Invisalign program. He no longer suffers from acid reflux either.

Because his sleep quality improved, Tom has more energy during the day to get things done. A phone app shows improved oxygenation. Tom is now alert all day, allowing him to work at his IT job and pursue his painting. His coffee machine sits idle.

“I don’t use it anymore because I think that’s a waste,” he says.

Tom says he is grateful for Dr. Aljonaidy and all she has done for him and his family. He would recommend her to anyone in the area who needs her services. She even inspired his daughter to go to dental school.

“Dr. Aljonaidy is very polite,” he says. “She’s very nice. She listens to me and my problems. She listens and works on getting things done


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