In Memoriam: Todd D. Morgan, DMD

Colleagues remember and pay tribute to Dr. Todd D. Morgan, a leader in the dental sleep medicine field. His insights and awareness of the impact of the dental sleep community will be missed.

March 4, 1958 – September 28, 2021

Todd was an exemplary friend and mentor to many of us in dental sleep medicine. His loss is deeply felt across our profession.  In honor of our friend, I’m printing an essay he wrote about getting started in the field.  Accompanying Todd’s words are tributes from some of his long-time friends in the industry.

Christina Marie LaJoie

My 33-year career at Great Lakes Dental Technologies afforded me many connections with amazing mentors and colleagues and many lasting friendships. I started in 1991, when only 3 appliances were available and based only on diminishing or eliminating snoring. I think of the first Alan Lowe/Schmidt Nowara series of courses we presented, back in 1995. As the mailers were received by the prospective attendees, there were many questions about the content of the course and why they should attend. Dr. Todd Morgan was one of them, and I could feel his passion unlike any other. When we met, I felt like I already knew him. Even then I could sense his future contributions to the field of sleep for Dentists and Sleep Physicians, and ultimately the care he gave to his patients. We were all getting our pearls gathered with designs, materials, and records and how to manage relationships with sleep docs/laboratories. Dr. Todd was so eager to volunteer his time with his suggestions and clinical trials. He continued his research and encouragement for dentists to become more aware of sleep disordered breathing. He came up with a design change to the Sleep Herbst that many dentists adopted. It was new in my work ethic to be able to respect him as a Doctor and have that blend into a friendship. I was privileged to witness this amazing man from the very beginning – and he never gave up! I was fortunate to call him, his wife Barbi, and their children my West Coast friends. We made a point to have dinners once or twice a year, and twice I was a guest in their home. I miss him every day and stay in contact with Barbi. I will keep his visions alive through them and his many contributions to our Sleep Community.

Pat Mc Bride, PhD, CCSH, Clinical Sleep Specialty

It isn’t often that someone comes into your life and sparks a previously unlit ember, lighting an entirely new pathway. Todd Morgan did that for me in 2006. I mean, how can you not listen when a guy whips out a bunch of illustrations of animal phenotypes, compares it to human anatomy, then tells you that the price for human speech, community and culture all started when the voice box dropped – unfortunately compromising our very ability to breathe. Wow, just wow. Back then in a culture where medicine wanted nothing to do with dentists, Todd paved the way for others with dignity, grace, grit, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Todd got things done, adapted technology across the business and medical spectrums early – no one had ever heard of cardiopulmonary coupling back then, or medical/dental software. Plenty of derision, scoffs, and dismissive attitudes abounded, yet Todd kicked open many of the doors we all walk through today. Thank you, my friend. My most profound memory from the last few years was sitting after a course in Columbus, Ohio. Somehow the topic of our humanity towards each other came up, and Todd said something I shall never forget: “We do what we do to make a difference, take care of our families and educate our kids, but most of all, we do what we do to make the world a better, healthier place for others. We all bring our own quirkiness, spirit and sometimes our innermost demons to the table in order to make a difference. Ultimately, kindness and laughter count.”  That advice and the generosity of spirit with which it was given will be my forever-treasured memory of Todd as he lives on in our hearts and minds.

John Remmers, MD

Todd Morgan was broadly interested in the field. He contributed innovative treatment, paleontology, and ongoing science to the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. I can think of no higher praise than to recognize that Todd was continually curious about a lot of subjects.

Ultimately, Kindness and Laughter Count.

The Rewards of Dental Sleep Medicine

by Todd D. Morgan, DMD

I remember my first case using an oral appliance clearly, because it was my father. I knew that my dad snored – because we could hear it down the hall in our bedrooms! How my mother coped with that I’ll never know, but my brothers all thought it was funny. Little did I know what OSA was slowly doing to my father’s health, until I began my practice in Dentistry and hung out my shingle in the community of Encinitas. Starting a practice from scratch is not done much anymore, I don’ think, and so I had lots of time to read and comb through industry magazines while waiting for new patients to stroll in.

When I came upon a small article about a dentist in Albuquerque named Thomas Meade my eyes grew wider as I read about his invention and work with something called the Snore Guard®. I immediately thought of my dad but still could not appreciate the ramifications of OSA – there was no mention of it in the whole article and it had barely been discovered! I was so excited I drove from San Diego to see Tom and observe him. Tom was very gracious and shared his experience with me. Tom – Thank you, and RIP.

I took Tom’s words to heart and started experimenting by gluing two night guards together. Now I was ready to fly to Dallas, with a supply of trays, alginate and stone in my suitcase. I thought my dad would be excited to try this fix for his obnoxious nighttime habit. Well, good luck with that. My dad was not the most friendly guy and kinda grumpy sometimes. It took a ton of convincing, but he finally agreed – after all, I was a doctor now… BTW – don’t mix stone in your mom’s kitchen sink!

A trip home and another back to Dallas and I was ready to deliver! This time I brought my lab hand piece, acrylic and tools for the “delivery appointment.” I didn’t expect to have to convince him a second time to give it a go, but finally the stage was set. He reluctantly agreed and it was off to sleep, with me in the adjacent room, waiting for the symphony to begin…

After about an hour, as I recall, I had heard nothing. I went down the hall to peek and pushed the door open. My dad was sound asleep and quiet! Problem was my mom was sitting up in bed. She saw me and I came over to her side to ask what was wrong. I’ll never forget her response: “I can’t sleep, it’s too quiet.” Really??

I was completely sold by my first case. And not so much by stopping a champion snorer in their tracks, but by the transformation my father underwent. He became a nice guy and more engaged with life (my mom said that it was a fair trade in her mind). I’m sure now that my dad had OSA, at least all the signs. That positive experience, and finding the right mentors launched my passion for further discovery and what has been a very rewarding adventure into Sleep Medicine and Oral Appliance Therapy. The help we can offer our patients, beyond their teeth, just became colossal. Thank you, Dad.

Our reach into our patients’ health is more than I would have believed. And, for those that begin this work, get ready to make a lot of folks very happy – two or three at a time! Because it’s no joke, you are treating your patient plus their loved ones, friends and extended family. I’ve experienced incredible reward for doing this important work. I never anticipated finding it happening over and over again.

Dr. Todd D. Morgan has authored interesting and important articles for Dental Sleep Practice. Read “Dr. Todd Morgan — Curious about better patient care” here: https://dentalsleeppractice.com/industry-news/dr-todd-morgan-curious-better-patient-care/

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