Dentistry plays key role in sleep medicine

Feeling a little sleepy today? That’s okay, maybe you had a rough night. Not a big deal.

But what if you’re feeling sleepy a lot? Days or weeks at a time? You may be becoming dangerous.

Put another way, you may have a sleep disorder, putting you among the tens of millions who suffer with one. The dangerous part? It seems 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents are associated with untreated sleep disorders. Do you remember the Challenger accident and the Three Mile Island danger? Both are connected with sleep disorder issues.

How does this relate to dentistry? First of all, the American Association of Sleep Medicine is considered the governing body. It provides the guidelines and the standard of care for dentists and physicians to follow in order to provide the public with the highest level of education and treatment options related to chronic, severe problems of sleep deprivation.

Most people consider going to a dentist for snoring only when their partner becomes disturbed and irritated. It’s a situation that is both uncomfortable and embarrassing for both parties.

So what can a dentist do to turn this problem into a profit center? Here are the proper process and procedures to provide excellent care in sleep medicine. Follow them and you will be able to increase your profitability by expanding your practices service offerings.

  • Get certified! Patients seek out dentists who have either a certification, designation or a minimum of 25 hours of training in the appropriate sleep medicine courses.
  • Learn to make the referral! A proper diagnosis requires the patient to get a polysomnogram (PSG), a level one sleep study done in a hospital setting where the individual stays overnight. Their eye movement, muscle movement and cardiac evaluation is constantly monitored along with their blood pressure, their inspiration, and expiration. A combination of all these factors will determine whether the correct diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea is present or not.

Now for the solution. Most think a CPAP unit is the logical solution. You put on a mask when you sleep and it solves the problem, right? Well, maybe. As many as 80 to 85 percent of people are unable to tolerate the CPAP. Users can find it constricture, claustrophobic and ironically, find it difficult to sleep with it on. It’s also a bit pricey at about $2,000.

A good alternative is a Intraoral or Mandibular Advancement Device.These devices keep the lower jaw in place and stops snoring just as well as a CPAP machine.

Over 90 percent of all sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea is caused by occlusion of the oral cavity or back of the throat by the tongue. By bringing the lower jaw or mandible forward, the tongue is advanced forward and the airway is open.

We’ve been providing intraoral appliances for sleep disorders for many years now and it is amazing to me how much better patients say they feel. Whether is be a intraoral appliance or a CPAP unit, your practice can benefit greatly simply by offering the service.

So are your patients sleeping well? Are they snoring? Maybe these are two questions you should be asking at every checkup from now on.