Rob Simon tries on a new CPAP mask.
Rob Simon tries on a new CPAP mask.

Seeking a Fix

There has to be someone here who can cure me of snoring, I thought, when more than 6,000 sleep professionals were in Denver June 18-23 to attend the 19th Annual Associated Professional Sleep Societies convention.

The APSS is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, two professional organizations comprising doctors, researchers, scientists, educators and technicians, all of whom are dedicated to advancing the understanding of, and cure for, sleep disorders. In addition to snoring and apnea, other sleep disorders include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and shift-work sleep disorder.

Like snoring, sleep disorders and the resulting sleep deprivation are major problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven out of ten Americans polled experience frequent sleep problems, with most of those disorders going undiagnosed.

The APSS gathering at the Colorado Convention Center featured scientific programs that shared new discoveries in sleep research and medicine, as well as clinical workshops, symposia, discussion groups, keynote presentations and an exhibitors' floor jammed with new devices for researching and curing sleep disorders.

As luck would have it, I met Michael Gelb, D.D.S, M.S., on the first day of the convention. Gelb is considered one of the world's leading specialists in sleep disorders, including TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) problems, sleep apnea, and yes, snoring. The passionate Gelb, along with his father, operates the Gelb Center for Craniofacial Pain, Sleep Disorders and Comprehensive Dentistry in Manhattan, where he has treated patients such as Raquel Welch and Julie Andrews, and is the inventor of oral appliances (The Gelb and The Modified Gelb) that help reposition the jaw for better daytime breathing and nighttime sleeping.

Why did a dentist become a guru of snoring and sleep disorders?

"There is a paradigm shift going on," Gelb said excitedly as we strolled by numerous exhibitors' booths. "Dentists are becoming the best practitioners to treat a majority of sleep disorders and all of snoring." As Gelb explained, the bite and the position of the jaw has everything to do with how well you breathe and sleep at night. An improper alignment not only obstructs the airways and creates snoring, it also can lead to a wide range of related problems, including neck aches, earaches, facial pain, insomnia, clicking, clenching and teeth grinding.

Within minutes of meeting me, Gelb took a good look at my face and gave me an instant diagnosis: the mid-section of my face was set too far back, and the right side of my face was off-kilter, both of which may have been caused by a problem with my jaw. He stuck his fingers forcefully into my ears and asked me to bite. BAM! Sure enough there was a TMJ click in my right jaw.

The doc quickly surmised from the TMJ that not only do I snore, I probably have chronic neck pain, a compressed neck vertebrae and no lips. (The lips disappear when your jaw causes your mid-face to pull back.) He was right an all counts. Furthermore, while the operations and interventions I have tried didn't hurt, they probably didn't help solve the real problem: my jaw.

We passed by numerous booths displaying oral appliances, including the TAP, a popular anti-snoring mouthpiece that lets your bedmate use a key to adjust the degree to which it resets your jaw at night. "Do you trust your wife?" Gelb asked with a smile.

Most of the devices there, he said, would cure my snoring. Moreover, if I wore The Gelb mouthpiece during the day, over time my neck pain would go away and my lips would return, too. And, with improved breathing and sleep, I would feel rejuvenated and have enhanced performance during the day, Gelb said.

We stopped at a booth where dentist. Mark Abramson was displaying his invention, the Oasys (oral/nasal airway system), which he claims is the first dental device to address resistance to breathing in the entire upper airway (the nose and throat). Abramson took one look at me and said, "problem with the right side, and a receding mid-face that's fixable." A third dentist joined the group and nodded in approval.

Using a prod that measured my oxygen intake before and after the Oasys, we found that the device improved my air intake by 300 percent. And it felt like I was breathing by the ocean -- cool and clean.

Surgeries and clunky CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) breathing machines no longer seem to be the most effective way to cure snoring and sleep disorders: oral appliances are.

Gelb is such a proselytizer for this new philosophy that he has started hosting "Snoring Parties" for groups of people because "snoring is a problem that affects the whole household, not just the bed partner." At a snoring party, families and friends share their snoring problems and Gelb advises them on solutions. and promotes the use of oral appliances.

For me, the next stop on my anti-snore tour is to try an oral device. Perhaps this will be the cure that finally works.


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