3D printed mouthpiece to treat sleep apnoea. Source: CSIRO and Oventus
3D printed mouthpiece to treat sleep apnoea. Source: CSIRO and Oventus

CSIRO researchers and Oventus, an Australian dental company, have 3D printed a device to treat sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is a condition in which the back wall of the throat collapses while sleeping and sufferers stop breathing for short periods of time during the sleep cycle. The sufferer will usually wake up, often with a snore or snort, to open the airway for breathing. However, the interrupted sleep cycle can result in sleepiness, restlessness, or irritability during the day. It can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and diabetes.

CSIRO stated that the 3D printed mouthpiece has a duckbill that extends from the mouth like a whistle and divides two separate airways. It allows air to flow through the back of the throat, avoiding obstructions from the nose, back of the mouth, and tongue.

“When Oventus came to CSIRO with this idea, we were really excited. The possibilities of 3D printing are endless and the fact that we can now design and print a completely customized mouthpiece for patients is revolutionary.” said John Barnes, CSIRO's 3D printing expert.

“It's an exciting prospect for people suffering from the debilitating disorder and the design offers significant benefits which cannot be achieved with more traditional manufacturing techniques,” he continued.

The mouthpiece was printed in Titanium and coated with medical-grade plastic. The 3D printed mouthpiece is expected to be more effective than current solutions on the marketplace. The mouthpiece is tailored to the patient, who can get an impression or CT scan when they visit the dentist. This information, combined with Oventus’ device file, can be used to 3D print the mouthpiece for a customized fit.

“This new device is tailored to an individual's mouth using a 3D scan and is used only on the top teeth which make it more compact and far more comfortable,” explained Neil Anderson, CEO of Oventus.

Anderson continued, “The new 3D printed mouthpiece bypasses all obstructions by having airways that deliver air to the back of the throat and it will also stop patients from snoring.”

The 3D printed mouthpiece is expected to be available for patients next year.