Work with physicians to treat craniofacial pain

 

With such a large portion of the population not getting the right treatment for what are often debilitating disorders, there is an incredible need for dentists who understand the neuroanatomical relationship within the cranio-cervical area and how to diagnose common pain complaints in the head and neck. This is why it is important to work with physicians to treat craniofacial pain.

Treating craniofacial pain is a team effort, with the patient’s Dentist, ENT, Neurologist, Physiatrist, Physical Therapist, and Psychiatrist all potentially playing a role in diagnosis and treatment. A dentist must understand what physicians do in a diagnostic workup and treatment and when it’s necessary to refer out in order to truly understand their role and fulfill their duties in patient care and establish referral relationships across various physician specialties.

By learning how to diagnose and treat craniofacial pain, dentists gain a great power to change their patients’ lives. With great power comes great responsibility for the proper diagnosis and management of pain in and around the mouth, face and neck. 

Create a working relationship

Many patients will find themselves in a neurological, primary care, chiropractic, pain management or an ENT’s office, but that may not always be the best place. For example, undiagnosed TMD may be mistaken for different ailments, as it can often stump many medical practitioners with the vast crossover of symptoms patients experience. 

A patient might complain of TMJ pain, but in reality they are suffering from a disease or infection of the ear, nose or throat. It is also common for a patient to complain of ear pain, but have the pain really be related to an affected TMJ. When this occurs, patients might be in the wrong medical office seeking treatment, or the clinician is frustrated that their prescribed therapy based on symptoms has not helped in resolving a patient’s complaints. 

Whether it is neurological or sinus related, you want your patients to get the best care available, and that means joining forces with other medical professionals. From neurologists and otolaryngologists to family practitioners, it is important to create a working relationship with each medical practitioner in order to discuss or refer for diagnosis and management of your patients when further assistance is needed.

Whether it is ear, dental or head related, a working relationship with the medical professionals in your community is essential in providing proper treatment for your patients! They will thank you in the end.

Hypertension and cognitive decline: Implications of obstructive sleep apnea

In the general population we see a significant amount of people with hypertension and dementia. Hypertension has been shown to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia and vascular dementia, but it is also strongly connected with obstructive sleep apnea. Recent evidence suggests that sleep apnea is linked with cognitive decline and dementia. 

This proves that it is possible that sleep apnea is the final common pathway linking hypertension to the development of dementia. And since sleep apnea is readily treatable, such therapy could potentially delay or prevent the onset of dementia. 

What are the connections?

Recently, hypertension has been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. Both of these conditions are also commonly seen in the general population. However, a significant number of patients with hypertension remain untreated, which can increase their risk for developing long-term negative health consequences. 

Sleep disordered breathing, or sleep apnea, is also highly prevalent in the general population and is associated with several adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Sleep apnea has been linked to incident and prevalent hypertension in various studies. It is also thought that sympathetic overactivity leads to the development of high blood pressure in these individuals. It is possible that sleep apnea contributes to the increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia seen in those with hypertension. 

Treat patients with sleep apnea now

This means it is important as dentists to provide proper treatment for our patients with sleep apnea. Through oral appliance therapy, you can take the next step toward improving your patients’ overall health and well-being. 

For this reason it is extremely important to properly screen your patients each time they visit your office. In doing so, you may be the first to notice a problem. From there you can refer your patient to a sleep physician for further diagnosis and treatment planning. 

It is our duty as dentists to continue to provide for our patients, especially knowing the connections between sleep apnea and other conditions. 

Take a page out of the millennials’ notebook: Use technology

As you know, the playing field in dentistry is always changing. More recently, though, we have a new group of millennials that are entering the dental field, which is creating a lot of changes. Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000, standing at 96 million people–the largest population in U.S. history. Then we have Baby Boomers at 77 million and Generation Xers at 61 million. What sets them apart is that Millennials demand instant access through technology, efficiency and superior customer service. 

Millennials have entered the dental world disappointed in how things were run and the technology available. To them, the dental system is outdated, inefficient and ill-equipped to handle their needs and their patients. 

It’s time to upgrade your technology

Because millennials are so used to being able to quickly order products and services from their smartphone or tablet with next-day delivery, they want their patients to have the same. And this isn’t a bad thing at all. Waiting days to see the dentist with only a small set of office hours in an area riddled with dental practices, millennials are drawn to Internet searches. 

No one wants to wait weeks to see a dentist. In this instant gratification generation, millennials want an appointment and they want it now. With the need for easy access to dentists, it is time for you to take advantage of the technology in front of you. 

The future is digital

Millennials are leading the way for the future design of dental practices and the ways we reach our patients. There is a demand to meet the needs of a sophisticated group that wants instant gratification and easy access to the care and information they need. We need to cater to their needs of convenience and preventive health. 

Where do millennials turn to for help? Google. Where do they shop for products delivered next day? Amazon. They want the information they are looking for and they want it now. This is why we need to continue to pave a path toward improved technology and advancements so we can keep up with their constant demand. 

So what should we do? Keep providing the tools necessary for our patients. Take advantage of marketing, websites and even apps to help maintain instant access to your dental practice.

Take advantage of upcoming educational sessions

Have you been thinking about completing continuing education? Well, what are you waiting for? Yes, I know it is summer, but that is the best time to start! Plan your vacation around an upcoming seminar or lecture and bring the family too! 

Even once summer is done, we have several education sessions that are in warmer states so you can even get away from the cold in the fall and winter. To help you get a better idea for what is coming up, I have put together a list of my upcoming lectures. 

I have broken up the educational courses into three categories: Dental sleep medicine, craniofacial pain and combination. These courses will take place in the next three months and I hope to see you at one of them.

Dental sleep medicine education

September 14, 2019

Topic: DSM for NP/PA (Atlanta Sleep School)

Location: Atlanta, GA

 

September 27-28, 2019

Topic: DSM sleep Mini residency Session 1

Location: Denver, CO

 

October 4-5, 2019

Topic: Successful Implementation of Dental Sleep Medicine

Location: Chicago, IL

 

Craniofacial pain lectures

August 23-25, 2019

Topic: Orofacial Pain Mini Residency  Session 2

Location: Raleigh, NC

 

September 20-21, 2019

Topic: TMJ Disorders

Location: Dallas, TX

 

Combination sleep and pain sessions

August 9-10, 2019

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency 3 Session 3

Location: Atlanta, GA

 

September 6-7, 2019

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency 4 Session 1

Location: Atlanta, GA

 

October 11-12, 2019

Topic: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving for Sleep & TMJ

Location: Atlanta, GA

 

October 25-26, 2019

Topic: Dental Sleep & Craniofacial Pain Panel conference

Location: Ft. Lauderdale, FL

 

There are a lot of great destinations in this list, with even more important topics to cover. I encourage you to attend a couple (or all) lectures in the next couple months. If you can’t, there will be more in the later part of the year too. We have a lot to talk about that can help you continue to improve the services you offer your patients. I look forward to seeing some of you at an upcoming lecture!