Brewster resident Dr. Carl Ern, owner of the Koala Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders, knows sleep disorders firsthand.
“I snore and before I even had the sleep center here, I’ve been wearing an oral appliance for sleep apnea,” he said. “I was not diagnosed as actually having sleep apnea, so I started this business.”
Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing during the night, explained Ern.
“What we’re treating is what’s called obstructive sleep apnea,” he said. “That’s where the airway gets blocked by the muscles of the throat.”
Ern said when someone sleeps, the muscles relax and fall to the back of the throat, and people with sleep apnea cannot breath. “The brain can either let you suffocate or wake you up,” he said. “It has a lot of health implications.”
People with sleep apnea can have heart problems, with many being forced to wake up during the night to urinate frequently, others experiencing a lack of restful sleep that can hamper them during the day and while operating vehicles, and some even die from heart attacks in their sleep, said Ern.
“It’s a public health issue in terms of having sleepy people out on the road,” he said. “It’s very common, and the scary part is it’s so underdiagnosed.”
Ern also practices general dentistry at Putnam Dental Wellness, which is located in the same Route 6 building that houses the Koala Center.
He said patients at Putnam Dental Wellness can complete screenings and questionnaires and may be referred to the Koala Center, while others come directly to center. Some patients are referred from sleep specialists.
Because he is a dentist, Ern said a doctor must order a sleep study and prescribe the oral top and bottom mouth guard appliance used by his patients.
“It just repositions your jaw forward so that you can breathe better,” he said, noting that a companion appliance is used by his patients during the day to reset their bite.
Ern also works with patients with TMJ disorders. “There’s a huge overlap with TMJ and sleep,” he said. “The treatment for both things usually has to do with the repositioning of the bottom jaw. A lot of the TMJ problems are muscular.”
The appliance for patients with TMJ problems allows muscles to be where they are most comfortable functioning, he said.
Where did the name of the Koala Center come from?
“We call it Koala because Koalas are known for sleeping really well, and sometimes they sleep so well they fall out of the trees,” quipped Ern.
The Koala Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders is located at 2435 Route 6, Brewster. For more information, call 845-377-2025 or visit koalasleepcenters.com/locations-brewster-ny.