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Airway History and Background

A little bit of history, I was the first to use 3D printed models of the airway as a tool for patient education in the dental sleep medicine industry.

Back in 20134 or 2014, I reached out to Shashi Jain. He runs the Portland PDX 3D Print Lab Meetup Group.

He works for Intel as the IoT Manager. I met him while doing research while I developed the concept for airways. I consulted with him on various advanced 3d printing ideas of mine. He broadened my horizons to the power of 3d Printing.

I spoke to his PDX 3D Print Lab meet up group in 2014, about 40 to 60 people I think attended.  Dr Singh even came to the event and listened to my presentation on the 3D printed airways.

I have been involved with the PDX 3D Print Lab ever since. Last year I gave a presentation on the Innovation Stage at the 2016 Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Mini Maker Faire in Portland Oregon.  Shashi is one of the first people to make me realize that innovation and inspiration are links in the chain of invention held together by people.

3D Printing is a focused area of interest of mine with no telling where it might go. I have some pretty wild ideas that just might work. Anyways back to the airways…

The airway models are not only invaluable for the blind as in the situation at the top of this web page describes, but also for the sighted patient as well. This patient specific model service fills a gap in patient education like no other.

A 3D printed patient specific model is the perfect tool for personalized education. It allows the patient to hold the airway in their hand.

Think about that for a moment…. it is down to less then micron in accuracy and the airway can be made hollow so you can breathe through it.

The patient can take it home and show their family. It allows for a person to inspect a replica of their own airway. If there is a problem in the airway it is obvious; even a blind person.

So effective I would argue, that you send it to the insurance company as part of the evidence that supports the letter of medical necessity. It is undeniable.This facilitates treatment acceptance to a much greater degree than just a verbal explanation or an image on the screen. It is a low cost and invaluable tool for converting a reluctant patient to one that is fully educated with all of the tools and technology available. Inherently that will increase their readiness to proceed with the treatment plan. Educating your patient in this way will educate them in a way that they will get it.

I believe that will increase treatment plan acceptance rates of oral appliance therapy in clinic. I offer this as part of our affordable full service 3D digital design services.

Three versions of the airways are available in solid or hollow.  Version 3.0 is in development.

  • Full Nasal and Upper Airway with Sinus
  • Full Nasal and Upper airway without the sinus ( Recommended)
  • Partial Airway to the Nasal Pharynx

Real world experience has show me the effectiveness of 3d Printing in other areas of medicine. Surgical planning for example. These educational models are to help you facilitate positive health choices made by the patient.

You might be the doctor that is the catalyst that helps correct the trajectory of that persons health that allows them to spend a decade or more time with their family.  You just have to convince them. That starts with understanding and education.

The treatment you choose is up to you in the end. I would suggest a type of expansion orthodontics with BOAT. Some are better than others and take dedicated patient compliance and constant adjustment to maintain signalling. Follow the directions exactly. Almost all cases are correctable. For biomimetic oral appliance therapy it to work the signalling must remain active. The connection unbroken. Appliances that do remodeling of the bone must be adjusted to keep up with the changes in spatial relationships that the body is signaled to produce to occur. It is  variable, person to person. It is a shift in the environment of the occlusion. The occlusion is a adaptive complex equilibrium that is constantly trying to maintain a state of homeostasis with in its complex system. The crowns of the teeth communicate to one another in 3d space. They adapt to the stimulus imparted to them.

To guide this remodeling process actively; requires a commitment from the doctor and the patient. If the patient does not comply – the treatment will not work. If you do not do the adjustments properly – it will not work. Like with all products-   improper use can and will cause problems for the patient. I know the protocols better than most providers.

Back to the airway models. one major another limitation is the patients airway. The actual model can be restricted in its design due to the deformity like a deviated septum, bone spurs, craniofacial underdevelopment or even severe nasal inflammation. Which can reduce the upper airway to the point of total closure.

You do not need a knowledge of anatomy to see the problems or identify it in the airway.

The lack of proper nasal breathing causes systemic hormone dysfunction. The body is designed to breathe through your nose with out snoring or OSA. It is the root cause of heart disease. We have accepted it for normal. It is not normal, and it is most likely killing us slowly.

The models are 3D renderings are a snapshot in time. The size and shape of the negative space is dependent on the internal architecture of  airway. Your airway is dictated and limited by the bone structure surrounding it.

It is a  complex structure and not many people understand its complexity in general and hardly ever personally. There are many points for restriction in the airway and far many more reasons. These airway models simplify understanding the underlying cause of the deformity that is the root cause of the dysfunction for both the patient and the doctor.

When something is intangible or conceptual, such as the negative space behind the tongue and that of the upper nasal airway, it is not possible to effective explain it without a 3d model. We need to use the newest technology to bring down barriers to understanding chronic disease.  There is a great deal to learn by just holding the models in your hand. You can grasp a concept, literally; pun intended.

Visualization of this complex structure is not something that many people can do. A 3d Computer model helps show the but it is just a 2d rendering on a screen.  Not even sighted people can do very well naturally. Think about asking blind person to try to visualize something.

It is important to all of us that we all understand that something within ourselves that is critical to our own health as individuals – our airway. I believe that these models are just another tool in the toolbox to bridge the patients understanding of the root cause of their breathing problem. Which is the cause of their chronic dysfunction or disease.

The way we breathe and sleep matters… it impacts every aspect of every single one of our lives, every single day.

I would like to help you educate your patients on their own upper airway so they can make an educated choice in their treatment options. They need no training in anatomy to see that there is a issue in their own airway.

They will take charge of their own long term health but only if you can show them that you understand enough about the issue with their airway. And as important, is know that you can correct it for them.  This will encourage them to accept your treatment plan. You have to show them. Only then will they see that they should take it as seriously, as you do.

I believe that if we work together to bring this type of 3D printed educational models into your practice, it will help motivate your patient make the obvious choice – fix the problem.

The mission should be not to just cope with symptoms. All that does is kick the can down the road their entire life as they develop chronic disease thinking that they don’t have to worry about it. That is just plain and simple a false sense of resolution.

It is a domino effect. Lets change the game and cheat a little and take out those first couple of dominoes and not allow the process to start.The development of chronic diseases like heart disease have direct relationship to hormone dysfunction related to sleep disordered breathing. OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea to do with the development of the facial structure early in life and familial genetics.

Epigenetic signals are both nutritional and mechanical in nature. The stimulus that is imparted from either can as a result of that behavior cause a disruption in facial development.

Environmental factors play an active role as well especially during the growth stage of life. If you have chronic nasal congestion as a child you face will most likely be narrower than normal. You will also have a greater likely hood to have a asymmetrical face if you parents placed you on your back for prolonged periods. Occipital bone flattening throws it off  facial and jaw development from the start. There are lots of factors.

The main positive one that would help correct these issues in my opinion is breast feeding (I recommended it highly) over bottle feeding. It is about the physics. Let me just say that if there is disruption to the tongues’ function early in life it will change the way your face develops.  If you cannot breathe through your nose or if you have a tongue tie will also cause disruption to the full development of the face. I will talk about that soon in the blog section.

These sort of treatments are best done with a multidisciplinary team. It takes at least: Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractor, Dentist, Sleep MD and a Myofunctional Therapist. If you are interested in contacting another professional that falls within those aforementioned specialists professions and are looking for someone to team up with or to talk to let me know I can send you a professional contact closest to you. I know thousands of these types of professionals and would be happy to introduce you. Contact me for details to find out more…

Wishing you all the best of health,


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