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Patient Story: The Ultra-Marathoner

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

How Resolution of Previously Unknown Sleep Issues Unlocked His Full Potential

The Chronically-Ill Mother who Started the Journey

Dr. Jill Ombrello of Central Dentist begins this video by telling a story that is quite common in her practice when the positive experience of one patient leads to enhanced clinical outcomes for their family and friends. This family's journey began with a middle-aged mother who was experiencing of a myriad of symptoms including chronic fatigue. Her functional medicine practitioner had diagnosed her with autoimmune issues, Lyme disease, activated Ebstein Barr Virus, poor gut health, and high levels of environmental toxicity and stress that were burdening her immune system. She was seeing symptom improvement with the suggested nutritional and therapeutic protocols, but she still didn't feel "well".

This patient was referred to Dr. Ombrello for a Home Sleep Test to screen for sleep-disordered breathing. While her data did not indicate severely compromised sleep health, she did present with clenching, grinding, & oxygen desaturation patterns throughout the night that can exacerbate the chronic symptoms she was experiencing. Dr. Ombrello treated her with a custom TAP Appliance, which is an intra-oral appliance that keeps the airway open and facilitates optimal, nasal breathing. This proved to be the missing piece to her health journey, and overtime, she recovered from her chronic symptoms and is now maintaining a life of balanced health and wellness.

The Ultra-Marathoner Son

After achieving such an extraordinary health outcome, this patient referred much of her family and friends, which included her son who is an endurance runner in his early 20s. It was difficult to convince an elite athlete to break from his training routine to travel for a sleep work up. Eventually through the power of collaboration with other providers, this young, "healthy" patient did a 3-night analysis of his sleep.

The Findings

We discovered that while he has a superb resting heart rate of ~35-40 bpm and oxygen saturation status (99%), he was demonstrating oxygen desaturation rates 60-70% multiple times per hour throughout each of the nights. His apnea-hyponea index (“AHI”) is 15-25x per night. After further discussion, Dr. Ombrello & the patient recognized that this patient has an incredible mindset that allows him to push through anything, but the downside of that was that it caused him to push through injuries and suboptimal health issues without pausing to discover if there was a root cause to these issues or a better approach that would increase longevity and functionality.

The Outcome

After being treated with a custom TAP appliance and titrated for peak sleep and airway health, this patient broke through his 50-miler breakpoint & is training for a 100-miler race through Death Valley and other advanced trail summits and endurance events.


Dr. Ombrello is a 4th-generation dentist in Dallas, TX, who specializes in holistic/biological oral health, sleep & airway health, special needs patient care, nutrition, & functional & alternative medicine for root-cause therapy for chronically ill patients. She has lectured to & trained hundreds of other providers in North America & internationally on topics including sleep-disordered breathing, functional oral health, & root-cause-centric dentistry for prevention. She has advanced training from the following organizations:

International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (

International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (

Institute of Functional Medicine (

American Academy of Clear Aligners (

United States Dental Institute (

Disclaimer: For sleep & airway related health concerns, it is important to see providers who have advanced training in these conditions & the spectrum of therapeutic options available. Additionally, proper screening, diagnosis, & treatment is best achieved by comprehensive care management by a team of collaborative healthcare providers which may include but is not limited to primary care physicians, internists, sleep physicians, dentists, functional medicine practitioners, nutritionists, & support therapists with training in specific patient needs (physical, occupational, myofunctional, speech, etc).

Photo courtesy of Brian Erickson of

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