If filling cavities and root canals are the first things that come to mind when it comes to the dentist, Drs. Carole and Robin Thoman are trying to change that. This power couple of dentistry at Paradox Dental are using their skills to tackle sleep apnea.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates almost 20 million Americans have sleep apnea. Constructing oral appliances to open the airway is Carole’s favorite aspect of her job.
“You can really impact a patients’ life and how they feel,” she said. “Give them a lot more energy to deal with life. You can save their life basically.”
The appliances allow patients to keep their airways open while sleeping by moving the lower jaw forward relative to the upper jaw. Carole says she has used up to 30 oral appliances over the years, but most patients are able to use the five most popular ones.
“It can definitely change the way your teeth come together, so I have to make a second appliance (a corrector) for them to wear in the morning to reposition their jaws,” she said.
For her patients, the oral appliances are a better fit than the more traditional CPAP therapy (continuous positive airway pressure), which requires a breathing machine and mask that some sleep apnea sufferers find uncomfortable.
“Patients who are claustrophobic don’t tolerate it very well,” Carole said. “The mask doesn’t fit well and air leaks. Some take them off in the middle of the night. (Oral appliances) are a lot less cumbersome.”
Sleep apnea patients are referred to Paradox Dental by physicians who diagnose the disorder.
“A lot of patients haven’t even been diagnosed yet, from what research shows on how many people actually have it. They can develop heart problems and diabetes from sleep apnea. Basically you suffocate for a few seconds, and for some people it happens 50 to 60 times a night.”
Paradox Dental recently relocated to 4950 E. Stop 11 Road. Carole and Robin have been in practice together for 28 years, and they got married shortly upon graduating from Indiana University.
“We have parallel views and visions,” Carole said. “During the day he is seeing his patients and I am seeing mine. It is nice to always have a second opinion right here. It’s nice not to work alone.
“I guess one of the things I really like about dentistry is building relationships and seeing families over the long haul ... seeing the kids grow up and they become part of your family.”