Get Involved in Screening for Dental Sleep Medicine and Craniofacial Pain Services

With the year almost over, we need to re-evaluate our roles and practices. As the remaining months unfold and you begin to think ahead to the new year, let’s look at ways you can continue to improve your practice and the services offered. Think about screening for dental sleep medicine (sleep apnea) and Craniofacial Pain–have you ever thought about these areas?

It is estimated that more than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and 45 million from craniofacial pain. Both sleep apnea and craniofacial pain have been proven to need the expertise of a dentist to help in the screening process. Let’s change our patients’ perceptions on dental care and help them get a better night’s sleep, as well as eliminating pain, by screening for these advanced conditions.

What You Can Do

The first step is to train your staff in what sleep apnea and craniofacial pain are. By informing your staff about signs and symptoms, you can begin to get your office involved in screening. You have several opportunities to identify prospective patients and screening opportunities for advanced diagnosis and care with help from your local dental sleep medicine specialist and sleep physician:

  1. Place educational material, such as posters or brochures, in your waiting room and hygiene rooms. These are great areas for developing verbal dialogue about sleep apnea and craniofacial pain.  
  2. Ask simple questions about their daily health and complications, as well as utilizing the epworth sleepiness scale. These options help in screening.
  3. Every office requires paperwork to be filled out, so why not ask a few extra questions to get the conversation going? Ask about pain, headaches and sleep complications–it only takes a moment.
  4. Review the health questionnaire–it may suggest potential undiagnosed conditions. An example would be a patient with uncontrolled diabetes, A-Fib, GERD, obesity, history of stroke and so on. These conditions may lead you to pushing for your patients to go get diagnosed for a unsuspected SDB.
  5. The exam itself will help you understand signs and symptoms the patient might be having. This is also a great time to create dialogue about the patient’s experience with fatigue, headaches and other complications.

You might have more information then you can digest, but, frankly, we were all once in the same position with information overload. Start by role playing during lunch and understand the flow it will take in screening, discussing, referring and following up with patients that you suspect have sleep apnea, craniofacial pain or other conditions.

Screen each of your patients and, if suspected, refer out for further analysis and diagnosis from an experienced physician. Let’s help our patients overcome further complications with sleep apnea and craniofacial pain by screening each patient and sending out for referral.

Dental sleep medicine: Work with the Medical Community

Sleep Apnea is a medical condition, which means it is important to include a medical professional in the treatment process for dental sleep medicine services. While dentists can treat obstructive sleep apnea, we cannot diagnose it ourselves. What we can do is ask questions and pay attention to symptoms.

Beyond that we need a sleep physician to help us in the diagnosis process through a sleep study. Through a working relationship with a sleep physician, you can send patients for diagnosis while also receiving patients for treatment with oral appliance therapy if they become CPAP intolerant.

The solution is you

At the end of the day, there is an easier solution: You, the dentist. By completing continuing education to advance your services to include sleep apnea care, you can save patients time and money spent on figuring out what might be the problem. Most patients are treated with oral appliance therapy as the leading form of treatment for sleep apnea due to their convenience and ease of use. As a dentist, you can offer your patients oral appliances to ensure accuracy and provide the best results.

Take charge of your practice and help your patients get a better night’s sleep while also improving their overall health and well-being by screening for sleep apnea. At the end of the day, if you’re not saving your patient’s life through sleep apnea screening, then who is?

The future of dental sleep medicine is bright. With numerous opportunities to provide value through improved patient care, your options are endless, so take charge as soon as possible and start screening your patients for sleep apnea.

Attend these dental sleep medicine, pain lectures before summer

Before you know it, summer will be here. While there are dental sleep medicine and craniofacial pain lectures all year long, we have some you might want to join before summer begins. I understand that summer is the time to travel and explore with your family. But why not get a few lectures in under your belt before jet setting across the world?

To help you get a better idea of what lectures are out there, I have put together a few for you to explore before June. Here they are:

March 29, 2019

Topic: Sleep disordered breathing and orofacial pain

Location: Chicago, IL

 

April 5-6, 2019

Topic: UNC Dental Sleep Mini Residency Session 3.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

 

April 26-27, 2019

Topic: The Appliance Course for Dental Sleep Medicine & TMD.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia. 

 

May 10-11, 2019

Topic: TMJ for the dental sleep practice & Injections/Botox.

Location: New York, New York.

 

May 17-18, 2019

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency 3 Session 2.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia.

 

I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming lecture! Please let me know if you have any questions about these dental sleep medicine and craniofacial pain lectures. See you soon!

Guidelines for treatment of sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy

In the first official joint guideline from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), oral appliance therapy is recommended for the treatment of adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who are intolerant of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or prefer alternate therapy.

This AASM and AADSM guideline supports increased teamwork between physicians and dentists to achieve optimal treatment of patients with OSA. While their recommendations were published in 2015, it is important that we make sure we are familiar with them. Their recommendations are vital to our care for our patients with sleep apnea.

The AASM and AADSM have six recommendations for dentists to follow.

  1. We recommend that sleep physicians prescribe oral appliances, rather than no therapy, for adult patients who request treatment of primary snoring (without obstructive sleep apnea). (STANDARD)
  2. When oral appliance therapy is prescribed by a sleep physician for an adult patient with obstructive sleep apnea, we suggest that a qualified dentist use a custom, titratable appliance over non-custom oral devices. (GUIDELINE)
  3. We recommend that sleep physicians consider prescription of oral appliances, rather than no treatment, for adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea who are intolerant of CPAP therapy or prefer alternate therapy. (STANDARD)
  4. We suggest that qualified dentists provide oversight—rather than no follow-up—of oral appliance therapy in adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea, to survey for dental-related side effects or occlusal changes and reduce their incidence. (GUIDELINE)
  5. We suggest that sleep physicians conduct follow-up sleep testing to improve or confirm treatment efficacy, rather than conduct follow-up without sleep testing, for patients fitted with oral appliances. (GUIDELINE)
  6. We suggest that sleep physicians and qualified dentists instruct adult patients treated with oral appliances for obstructive sleep apnea to return for periodic office visits—as opposed to no follow-up—with a qualified dentist and a sleep physician. (GUIDELINE)

For more information on their recommendations, such as the summary for each, download the document. I hope this helps moving forward for a better understanding of what the AASM and AADSM recommend for treatment of sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy.