Two years ago, Dr. John Kempter was tired. A father of two and owner of an own 18-month-old dental practice, Kempter told himself this was just life.
But Kempter’s fatigue was more than the stresses of everyday life. For months, Kempter’s wife had been concerned that he seemed to stop breathing at night, sometimes for up to ten seconds. Always a heavy snorer, overweight and suffering from high blood pressure, Kempter dismissed his wife’s concerns until one night he found himself struggling to breathe.
“I was gasping for air; sucking in air like I had just been underwater for two minutes,” says Kempter. “My heart was racing and pounding to the point I thought it was coming out of my chest. I was delirious and was not really sure whether I was in a dream or reality. That is when I knew something was wrong.”
After a sleep test that showed Kempter stopped breathing over 76 times an hour – more than once a minute – he was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. Kempter was given a CPAP, a machine that consists of a face or nose mask connected to a pump that keeps the airway open by providing positive air flow into the nasal passages. With the help of the CPAP machine, Kempter immediately felt more rested.
Like Dr. Kempter, most patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea are prescribed a CPAP machine. Numbers don’t lie: CPAP machines are 100% effective at treating sleep apnea. The problem is that statistically only 30% of patients prescribed a CPAP wear the device every night. The reasons that patients fail to use their CPAP machines are numerous and varied. Some find the air pressure uncomfortable, like having a hair dryer up one’s nose all night. Others find the face mask itself uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Some experience side effects like sinus infections and dry mouth. Others confront logistical impediments like frequent power outages or travel.
When the CPAP machine doesn’t work, doctors often turn to surgery. But Dr. Kempter offers a unique, non-invasive, standalone alternative to the CPAP machine: a custom oral appliance that helps people with sleep apnea to take in adequate air and sleep normally.
At a glance, the numbers behind oral appliance therapy aren’t encouraging. OATs tend to be only 40% effective. However, Dr. Kempter believes this statistic is misleading. Approved only in 2006 by the FDA, OAT is still a relatively new and untested form of therapy for sleep apnea. “The issue is not the mouth guard; the issue is the person making the mouth guard,” says Kempter, adding that many dentists only dabble in oral appliance therapy and lack the specialized equipment necessary to test the patient’s airway and position the device properly.
This is where Preferred Sleep Solutions is different. Specifically trained in oral appliance therapy, Dr. Kempter custom fits oral appliances to his patients’ mouths and jaws. Kempter also emphasizes the importance of training patients in how to use the oral appliance and following up with patients, making adjustments and sometimes even creating a new oral appliance. Of the over 500 patients Dr. Kempter has treated in seven years, 93% have seen success with the use of a custom oral appliance.
Kempter believes his statistics demonstrate the power of oral appliance therapy with proper training and application. “I really believe the literature will say in the future that people who are gearing their practice toward this treatment, we’re going to get 9 out of 10 successes,” says Kempter.
OATs can often be used independently of the CPAP machine by those with mild to moderate sleep apnea as well as by individuals with more severe sleep apnea who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine. For the one in ten whose sleep apnea can’t be managed by an oral appliance alone, the device can serve as a crucial backup for when they are traveling.
Open for business in Concord since 2014, Preferred Sleep Solutions is the only business who offers oral appliance therapy locally. But Kempter has an ambitious three-year expansion planned that will bring his unique model not only to every corner of Charlotte but also to what he calls “The New South:” cities across the Southeast like Raleigh, Nashville, Huntsville, Alabama and Charleston. “Wellness dentistry is virtually nonexistent in these areas,” says Kempter.
“I didn’t become a doctor to be a businessman,” adds Kempter. “The big picture here is this is dental wellness. I’ve always wanted to help people. I truly believe in what we’re doing.”
Currently, the CPAP remains the gold standard for treatment of sleep apnea. But for those who can’t tolerate or don’t want a CPAP machine, Dr. Kempter offers a realistic, noninvasive solution. Three years after waking in the middle of the night unable to breathe, Kempter is feeling more well-rested and healthier than ever. If you experience excessive snoring and non-restful sleep, call Preferred Sleep Solutions to hear how Dr. Kempter can help you do the same.