By Barbara Salter Nelson
For Hometown News
ORMOND BEACH - Elsa Wittbold is not a marriage counselor. But, the dentist may be saving more marriages than most professional counselors with her specialty - the eradication of snoring.
She has the Florida Snoring and Apnea Solutions office in Ormond Beach.
"I'd taken courses in dental sleep medicine and found it to be extremely interesting and highly rewarding," Dr. Wittbold said. "I realized that there's not a dental office in this area that is dedicated solely to treating snoring/sleep apnea."
Dr. Wittbold completed advanced training in dental sleep medicine at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, learning from some of the country's leading dental sleep medicine instructors and is studying to become a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. She is modeling her practice on other dental sleep centers throughout the U.S. that focus solely on working with patients who suffer from snoring and/or sleep apnea.
The Academy of Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) reports that 45 percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Approximately half the people who snore loudly have sleep apnea, a type of breathing disorder that is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.
"Snoring is a social problem, particularly for the spouse of the one who snores," said. Dr. Wittbold, "but obstructive sleep apnea poses a significant health risk for the patient in that it can lead to irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes."
In most cases, by the time a patient contacts Dr. Wittbold's office, their primary physician has already diagnosed them with sleep apnea. Florida Snoring and Apnea Solutions provides an oral appliance therapy as an alternative to either surgery or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine that usually involves using a bulky facemask.
In 1995, the American Sleep Disorder Association endorsed oral appliance therapy as the third currently acceptable treatment modality for snoring and sleep apnea.
"The rate of compliance (with the oral appliance) is overwhelmingly higher than with the CPAP," Dr. Wittbold said. "Most people do adapt to the appliance and are very happy with the results."
Dr. Wittbold credits much of the success of the appliance with the fact that they are adjustable to each patient's mouth.
"What's special about them is that they have a mechanism to adjust the appliance in millimeter increments, so it's a very gradual adjustment of the jaw into a more forward position. That minimizes the stress and strain on the muscles and the jaw joint," she said.
Ormond Beach resident Michael Freydl is a believer. He suffers from mild sleep apnea and recently became a patient of Dr. Wittbold's. "I never really liked the CPAP," he said. "I used it for almost two decades but it was really a nuisance and it was very inconvenient. You have to take it everywhere and they always wanted to take it apart at the airports."
He also said the CPAP wouldn't stay in the right position and he wasn't sure if it was doing the job. "The CPAP won by default," he said. "For years there were no viable alternatives. When the viable alternative showed up, I went for it."
Mr. Freydl had no major problems adjusting to the new appliance.
"The first night was a little difficult," he said, "but by the second night it worked just fine."
The appliance is not for everyone who snores. "They aren't quite as effective as the CPAP," said Dr. Wittbold, "so people who have severe apnea or who are severely overweight really are better off using the CPAP."
The whole process, from the time the patient first comes into Florida Snoring and Sleep Apnea until the appliance is adjusted for optimal results, takes about six weeks.
Dr. Wittbold loves helping her patients - and their marriages.
"I love to see the smiles on the faces of my patients' spouses. They're the ones who are the happiest," she said. "That's what makes it so rewarding."
Florida Snoring and Sleep Apnea Solutions
555 W. Granada Blvd., C-2
Ormond Beach, FL. 32174
Phone: (386) 675-6769
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday