PARTNERS of snorers may sleep a little easier with the news the CSIRO has created the first 3D printed mouthpiece to allow air flow through the back of the throat.
The CSIRO says a patient's mouth is scanned to create a mini 'road map'.
This scan is then transformed into a CAD file and can be fed through the 3D printer.
Eight hours later, a perfectly fitting, titanium mouthguard emerges.
The device is coated in medical grade plastic, making it easy to wear.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the air passage in the throat becomes blocked during sleep and causes people to stop breathing.
In severe cases, people can suffer hundreds of events per night and one of the biggest symptoms? Snoring.
The breakthrough mouthguard has a 'duckbill' which extends from the mouth like a whistle and the sides of the guard divide into two separate airways.
Since it is used only on the top teeth it is more compact than treatments on the market, which include devices that push the lower jaw forward to open up the airway or in more severe cases; a face mask which creates a continuous flow of air.
3D printing expert, John Barnes, says the technology is opening new doors for treatments of a range of medical issues globally.
"When Oventus came to us 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 customised mouthpiece for patients is revolutionary.
"We can print up to ten of these in a print run, which takes about 8 hours. 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."
The device is undergoing further trials and is expected to be available to patients next year.