Searching for the Right Continuing Education Courses for Sleep Apnea

I recently read an article in Sleep Review about Dental Schools receiving a failing grade. While this might be accurate, I wouldn’t give the schools a failing grade. What dental schools do is educate dentists to provide general dentistry. However, we can change this failing grade to a passing grade with the availability of continuing education courses. Let’s take a stand and further advance ourselves and our practices by understanding how to take our dental education to a new level of success with continuing education courses.

What Research Says

According to researchers, there is an absence of sleep-disordered breathing education for dental school students. With the increase in a need for proper obstructive sleep apnea treatment, dentists remain in a unique opportunity to screen patients and recommend treatment. While dentists can’t diagnose, they maintain the ability to notice the first signs of sleep apnea, which allows them to refer to a sleep physician for proper diagnosis.

The issue that remains is that when dentists graduate from dental school, they are not prepared for the added services of dental sleep medicine. It has been shown that less than 3 hours are dedicated to OSA and other sleep-related disorders for dental students. And, only a handful of postdoctoral programs are available that include such courses to help improve the offering of dental sleep medicine.

What Needs to Change

In order to further improve dental students’ understanding of all areas of dentistry, we must provide our students with the education they need to better serve their patients. While I don’t have a set answer for how many hours are needed to be spend on the subject of obstructive sleep apnea, there is one thing we do know–continuing education is available.

The availability of continuing education courses in dental sleep medicine allow dentists to continue to advance their knowledge in dentistry. While many dentists will go on to remain in general dentistry, others search for ways to further their practice and services available. This is where continuing education comes into play.

Continuing Education

Are you ready to continue your education well past what you learned in dental school? While less than 3 hours are dedicated to dental sleep medicine in school, there are options out there to help dentists. The biggest advantage dentists have is the opportunity to advance their expertise with quality education seminars and courses from accredited associations such as Nierman Practice Management.

Lead by experienced dental sleep medicine specialists such as myself, we continue to help dentists and their teams advance their practices to offer sleep apnea services. And, while researchers has stated that “without such a component in their academic career, the researchers explain, dentists must rely on courses offered by manufacturers of oral appliances and information gleaned from medical literature and industry meetings,” there’s more out there.

Today, numerous courses are available through accredited associations and led by experienced dentists who are currently practicing within the field of dental sleep medicine. Visit my lectures page or Nierman Practice Management to learn more about your options for continuing education.

Let’s Talk About Bruxism

I cringe at the thought of bruxism, or teeth grinding, don’t you? There is a significant need for treatment of bruxism, and even sleep bruxism–don’t worry, we will cover it shortly.

What is Bruxism or Sleep Bruxism?

Bruxism is a term used to describe gnashing and grinding of the teeth that occurs without a functional purpose. Whether a patient’s teeth grinding is due to a nervous habit, stress or unknowingly, bruxism can cause a lot of damage to their teeth, as well as health. Bruxism affects both children and adults, but is most common among 25-44 year olds.

There are two prominent reasons why people grind their teeth at night:

  1. Stress – this is particularly evident for women
  2. Genetics – grinding teeth can be something inherited by family

In 2005, sleep bruxism was categorized as a sleep related movement disorder and defined as an oral parafunctional activity characterized by tooth grinding or jaw clenching during sleep, which is usually associated with sleep arousals. So, why do we care about microtrauma? Because of breakage of dental restoration, tooth damage, induction of temporal headaches and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).

Long Term Damage

In comparison to five years ago, dental and orthodontic practices have seen an increase in patients coming into their office with teeth grinding complaints. Whether a person is waking up with a sore jaw, or have been told by their sleep partner that they have been grinding their teeth at night, studies found that nearly 70% of bruxism cases are caused by anxiety. With cases on the rise, whether it is bruxism or sleep bruxism, it is more important than ever to begin treatment and screening immediately.

Take charge of your patients’ health by screening for bruxism. To learn more, contact my office or sign up for an upcoming lecture.

Infographic: Help Your TMD Patients Eat Better

What does your diet look like? When a patient suffers from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) their diet can play a huge role in their pain. While it is important to eat healthy, TMD sufferers need to be aware of the food they are eating because it can further complicate their condition. The last thing you need is your patients experiencing more pain because they are making poor food choices.  

To help your patients gain a better understanding of what to eat and what not to eat I have created an infographic showcases good food choices for TMD sufferers. In the infographic below, we cover a variety of areas and provide some suggestions to follow:

TMD- Watch What You Eat

 

Feel free to download the above infographic for use in your office. Remember, handouts and visuals for patients are often extremely helpful in getting the right information across to them. For more information on TMD and how you can help your patients, please visit my lectures page or send me an email! I’m more than happy to talk to you further about TMD and your patients.

There’s a Connection Between Airway, Bruxism and Craniofacial Pain

Think of Airway, Bruxism and Craniofacial Pain. What do these words have in common? From just the words, it looks like they are three completely different terms. And, other than the first letter of each word being ABC, these areas have a lot more in common than you may realize. With advancements in research, we continue to learn more about the connection between sleep apnea (the airway), bruxism and craniofacial pain (TMD). For these reasons, dentists should educate themselves on each area for increased patient care.

Why are the ABCs so Important?

Think about it. What do you know what dental sleep medicine, etiologies of bruxism or craniofacial pain conditions, such as TMD? Odds are you might know little to nothing about each and that’s ok. A majority of dentists know little to nothing about these areas of dental specialty, so you’re not alone. However, because of this, dentists are unable to recognize the risk of sleep apnea, let alone manage patients with oral appliances. Let’s do something about this.

This is the same for craniofacial pain and bruxism. While bruxism may be noticed more often than sleep apnea or craniofacial pain, it is often overlooked. By taking the steps toward a better understanding of the unique connections between the airway, bruxism, craniofacial pain and other conditions, dentists can create endless opportunities for services in diagnosis and treatment options within their practice. Let’s examine the ABCs of advanced dental services…

Airway (Sleep Apnea)

The ‘A’ in the ABCs stands for “Airway”, which is commonly referred to in sleep disordered breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Dental practices are in a unique position to identify patients at risk for conditions involving the airway. Understanding the airway and how it can affect a patient’s sleeping patterns due to sleep apnea and other sleep disordered breathing conditions is vital in maintaining your patients’ health and improving service offerings. It can also help in treating other conditions when there is a clear link available (trust me, there are connections).

Bruxism

Let’s refresh your memory. Bruxism is the gnashing and grinding of teeth that occurs without a functional purpose. When a patient is suffering from bruxism, it can cause a lot of problems (as you know). Whether it is due to a nervous habit, stress or unknowingly grinding teeth at night, bruxism can cause damage to not only a patient’s teeth, but their overall health as well. Due to the breakage of dental restorations from bruxism, tooth damage, induction of temporal headaches and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) can occur. From one condition (bruxism), so many other complications can occur, which means we need to take charge and continue our education immediately.

Craniofacial Pain (TMD)

We come full circle with craniofacial pain, as it covers a wide spectrum of symptoms exhibited in many areas of the head and neck. In particular, a majority of craniofacial pain complications can be associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Can you see the pattern? Because of this, an essential part of routine dental examinations for all patients should include an evaluation for TMD, including a patient’s history, clinical examination, and imaging when appropriate.

Connect the Conditions

There appears to be an apparent relationship in some individuals between the airway, bruxism and craniofacial pain. While it might not be found in every patient, there are still some individuals requiring further attention because there is an apparent connection. As a dentist, it is important to understand that clenching or grinding of one’s teeth can be a way for the brain to protect itself from suffocation during sleep–it connects the ABCs.

Each condition might be a sign of deeper complications, but what can you do about it? Educate yourself by completing continuing education courses and attending lectures or seminars. While it might not occur in every case, it is vital that we as dentists understand it for those certain individuals suffering from all three conditions. For more information, please contact my office or visit my lectures page to find the next available educational course for your needs.