Could 3D Printing Be the Answer to Sleep Apnea and Snoring?

Published on May 3, 2024 by Madeleine P.

Could you imagine the creation of an easy-to-use and convenient treatment for snoring and sleep apnea in our lifetime? While this might seem like a pipe dream, this might actually be a reality thanks to 3D printing. Leading dental solution provider Glidewell has announced a fully digital, 3D printed sleep appliance, named Silent Nite® 3D Sleep Appliance and available by prescription, which could be used for patients who suffer from snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common but serious condition where a person’s breathing stops and restarts while sleeping, thus potentially preventing sufferers from getting enough oxygen and leading to problems with the brain, heart, kidney and metabolic health conditions. And current estimates from the National Council of Aging show that obstructive sleep apnea affects approximately 39 million adults in the US and 936 million adults around the world. Snoring is even more prevalent.

Silent Nite 3D Sleep Appliance for sleep apnea treatment

The Silent Nite 3D Sleep Appliance

What’s worse? Treatment is often cumbersome. The most common is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that is used to keep the airways open while you sleep. But it is noisy and can be hard to travel with. For Glidwell, this mandibular advancement device, meaning it holds the lower jaw and tongue forward to make more space to breathe and prevent snoring, is the solution.

Making a 3D Printed Device to Treat Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Digital dentistry, meaning dental technology that involves computer-based components, has risen rapidly along with the use of 3D printing in dentistry as a way to get more personalized and effective solutions. This is yet another case of its success. With the Silent Nite 3D Sleep Appliance, Glidewell hopes to provide a custom-fit, light solution that can ensure a “good night’s sleep virtually anywhere.”

Though the exact process and material were not mentioned, the device was made from durable light-cured resin. This suggests that it would have been produced with one of the vat photopolymerization processes. Relatively common in dentistry for the ability to create very exact and clear parts with the properties necessary, including biocompatibility.

In terms of design, the clear devices will gently shift the mandible (jaw) forward with nylon connectors that are adjustable in 0.5 mm increments over a 10 mm span. This keeps the airway open and prevents it from collapsing during sleep, allowing it to be used a treatment for both sleep apnea and snoring. The connectors are also replaceable to ensure that dentists can adjust the position of the mandible to ensure proper care while keeping the patient comfortable.  It also boasts a scalloped edge, able to be made thanks to 3D printing, allowing for minimal contact with the gingiva (gums).  Furthermore, thanks to the use of 3D printing, the device can be made in only three days.

Robert Brenneise, chief growth officer at Glidewell, concludes, “Glidewell is committed to the digital transformation of dentistry – both in the lab and chairside. Digital dentistry makes quality care more accessible for dentists and patients alike, and the Silent Nite 3D Sleep Appliance is a patient-friendly, digitally produced solution for relieving snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea.” You can find out more on Glidewell’s website HERE.

What do you think of Glidewell’s 3D printed solution for sleep apnea and snoring? Would you use it? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here for the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*All Photo Credits: Glidewell

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