November 6, 2018
Many people don’t realize it but sleep apnea has quite the long history. While the condition itself held a different name for many years, the symptoms have been recorded for a very long time. Now with advancements in medical and dental technology, we have the ability not just to catch the symptoms early, but provide sufficient treatment. Considering the fact that sleep apnea is a hidden health crisis in the United States, there’s no more important time than now to seek sleep apnea treatment in Chicago.
To learn more about the history of sleep apnea and how the oral appliances used came to be, keep reading!
The History of Pickwickian Syndrome
The earliest symptoms of sleep apnea were recorded some 2,000 years ago, but the condition wasn’t given any kind of official name until about the 19th century. At that time, doctors referred to sleep apnea as “Pickwickian Syndrome,” which referenced a character from Charles Dickens’ book The Pickwick Papers. In the book, the character was overweight and exhibited much of the same symptoms doctors understood at that time. Doctors also believed obesity to be the key cause of the condition, but this would prove untrue as research continued.
While obesity was a contributing factor of sleep apnea and still is to this day, the real causes are more varied. Anything that prevents stable breathing during sleep, including relaxed neck or throat muscles, nasal or pharyngeal blockages, or oversized throat structures remain likely culprits.
Research on Sleep Apnea Accelerates
Fast-forward to the 1950s and 1960s and you’d find research into sleep apnea increasing. New studies confirmed that sleep apnea was at its core a breathing problem, making it much easier for doctors to diagnose and build treatments. In the 1970s, doctors began using dogs to examine sleeping and breathing patterns. Unfortunately, their only solution at the time was tracheotomies, which is a surgical procedure inside the windpipe to allow for better breathing. While this may sound extreme, it was the only solution doctors could think of to improve breathing in test subjects.
The History of Oral Appliance Therapy
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Colin Sullivan developed what we know today as the CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure machine, which remains the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment today. While it can be effective for some, many individuals cannot adjust to the claustrophobic mask needed to push air into the mouth. That’s where the oral appliance alternative comes in.
The earliest clinical work behind oral appliances is credited to Pierre Robin, who in 1902 created oral appliances designed to reposition the mandible and treat glossoptosis, a condition where the tongue blocks the windpipe. Fifty years later, oral appliances started being used to treat sleep apnea. Today, many appliances have been proven effective to treat varying degrees of sleep apnea, including the Narval, the Herbst appliance and the Prosomnus Micro2.
Not sure which appliance is right for you? Schedule an appointment to get your sleep apnea in Chicago treated!
About the Author
Dr. David B. Schwartz earned his DDS degree from the University of Illinois at the Chicago College of Dentistry. He’s currently the dental director at the Center for Sleep Dental Medicine and one of only 250 dentists to be awarded the designation of Diplomate of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. To learn more about his practice, expertise or oral appliances, you can contact him through his website.
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