Now is the time to offer dental sleep medicine in your practice

With the release of a new hypertension guideline that includes advice on sleep apnea and new policy from the American Dental Association on obstructive sleep apnea screening for dentists, it is important to find ways to stand out from other practices. The first step in doing this is deciding to offer dental sleep medicine services. And if you are thinking about it now, you’re one step in the right direction!

Once you have decided to offer these services, you will need to complete continuing education courses and lectures to ensure you are able to provide your patients with proper care, as well as how to implement these services at your dental practice. To help you get going, here are some steps you can take to implement dental sleep medicine into your dental practice.

Complete continuing education

Once you have made the decision to offer dental sleep medicine services, it is important to start your education. This will help you to establish a practice that offers the best care possible.

Just as you completed dental school, you will need to do the same with dental sleep medicine. This will include lectures, seminars and shadowing and experienced dental sleep medicine specialist. No matter what, you are getting the experience and knowledge you need to provide superior care for your patients.

Maintain open communication

By integrating dental sleep medicine into your practice, it requires new behaviors and ways of adapting—especially through the words you use. Pay close attention to how you describe your service. Using the wrong words can deter patients away from your office and new services, so make sure you word your content appropriately. Everyone in your office should have a solid understanding of what dental sleep medicine is, who can benefit, how it works, and why it is so important.

And, with that comes being fluent in dental sleep medicine so that everyone can describe it to patients without hesitation. The future of dental sleep medicine is a bright one. With numerous opportunities to provide value through improved patient care, your options are endless, so take charge as soon as possible.

Remember, anything is possible and if you put your mind and energy into this, your practice has the opportunity to be extremely successful.

Let’s revisit dental sleep medicine and what it means for dentists

We’ve talked about this before, but I think it is time we revisit what dental sleep medicine is and how dentists can take advantage of this unique opportunity. So, what is dental sleep medicine (DSM) exactly?

DSM is an area of dentistry focusing on the use of oral appliance therapy to manage sleep-disordered breathing. And that includes snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When providing dental sleep medicine services, dentists will work together with sleep specialists to help identify the best treatment option for each patient.

What is the dentist’s role?

Dentists pioneered the use of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of OSA and snoring–cool, right? The use of an oral appliance allows for a more comfortable treatment option for many patients that might be CPAP inept. It is similar to a mouth guard for sports or an orthodontic retainer, which makes for an easier solution to a condition. A custom-fit oral sleep appliance is an effective treatment for preventing the airway from collapsing by supporting the jaw in a forward position–an easy solution for a complicated condition.

Dental sleep medicine specialists work with sleep physicians to gain a diagnosis after they might have noticed symptoms or signs of sleep disordered breathing or a patient’s responses to a questionnaire showed a possibility of this condition. From a diagnosis through a sleep physician, dentists can plan for proper treatment with oral appliance therapy.

Have you ever thought about providing your patients with dental sleep medicine services? Now is the time to get out there and gain a better understanding of this unique area of dentistry to help your patients live happy, healthy, well-rested lives.

Why don’t more sleep physicians recommend oral appliances for OSA?

It’s an important question that many of us continue to wonder about – why aren’t more sleep physicians recommending oral appliances for sleep apnea? Well, to begin with, there appears to be a lack of data on the subject. While most dentists understand the importance of using oral appliances for the treatment of sleep apnea, physicians are still not in the know. So let’s get them some data.

What information is out there?

After doing a quick search through Google Scholar I found the following studies that showcase how effective oral appliances are for the treatment of sleep apnea in our patients:

Another reason is because they may not be comfortable with the process. If that is the case, then we must help them get more acquainted. This can be done by contacting their offices and educating them on the services we provide. Through proper education and understanding, you can help sleep physicians become better acquainted with oral appliance therapy as a successful alternative to the CPAP machine.

They are ignorant about topics they know little about, which is why it is important to educate them on oral appliances. Look up studies, attend classes and do what you can to provide the information they need to better understand this treatment alternative so we can all continue to help patients get a better night’s sleep.

Lymphatic System’s Connection with Migraines and Sleep

In a study posted by the Washington Post, scientists studied lymphatic vessels for more than two decades. For more than 300 years it was accepted that the lymphatic vessels stopped at the brain. However, this recent study by scientists found new answers. Utilizing mice with glowing lymphatic systems, Kari Alitalo found that the heads of the mice glowed, which showed a link between the lymphatic system and the head. This is where migraines and sleep come into play.

A Migraine Connection

Harvard University researchers found that glymphatic flow (is a functional waste clearance pathway for the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS)) significantly decreases in the period just before a migraine. The intense pain of migraines is caused by inflamed nerves in the tissue that surrounds the brain. As a result of faulty clearance of molecular waste from the brain, it can trigger inflammation in these pain fibers, which leads to disturbingly painful headaches.

Sleep’s Role

Another link with the glymphatic flow is sleep–the system appears to process twice as much fluid during sleep as it does during the time awake. In this situation, the lymphatic system removed more of the protein when the mice were asleep than when they were awake. As suggested, over time sleep dysfunction may also contribute to Alzheimer’s and even brain illnesses. While you are sleeping, you clean your brain, so when you can’t sleep, your brain suffers–you need that time for housekeeping.

Sleep position is also important. When a person sleeps in an upright position, waste is not removed properly. Sleeping on your stomach is also not effective with the back being somewhat better. When laying on your side, it appears to show much better results. Sleep might not be the only way to improve glymphatic flow, but it is one of the better ways.

We need to continue to take these advancements and improve our services to our patients. With a connection between the lymphatic system, migraines and sleep, we can keep offering our patients the care they need to remain healthy and happy. Let’s take these advancements and work toward an improved understanding of the migraine and sleep connection with the lymphatic system.