What is the prevalence of general dentists who screen for OSA?

Now this is an interesting study that I know many of you will want to learn more about. While I was searching the internet for new studies and information on sleep apnea I found this study in the Journal of Dental Sleep Medicine. The researchers were looking to determine the prevalence of general dentists screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

One thousand general dentists across the U.S. received a brief 12-item questionnaire consisting of a demographic section and questions about OSA screening methods, parameters and preferences. Here is what researchers found.

General dentists screen for OSA

Out of 1,000 general dentists who received the questionnaire from researchers, only 71 responded. However, based on demographic results, those who did respond represent a broad range of general dentists practicing in the U.S.

Dentists were asked to select which screening modalities they use and to supply specific information to provide validity to their responses. Researchers found that 76 percent of general dentists who responded, reported that they screen for sleep apnea.

Dentists use more than one modality

Most of these dentists also use more than one modality when screening for sleep apnea in their patients.  The questionnaire found that 60 percent do not routinely screen more than 70 percent of their patients. And a total of 37 percent ranked themselves a three or less on a scale of one to five regarding their confidence in screening for sleep apnea (one being uncomfortable and five being confident).

To screen for OSA, 72 percent of dentists reported using a patient interview, 52 percent identified anatomical parameters and 39 percent used patient questionnaires. Of the dentists who screen for OSA, 41 percent stated that they have their patients perform an at-home sleep test. There were also 87 percent of dentists suspecting OSA who referred their patients to physicians for further evaluation.

Additionally, dentists with fewer than 30 years of experience were significantly more likely to screen for OSA (87 percent) than those with more than 30 years of experience (63 percent).

A majority of general dentists do screen for OSA in their patients. However, most lack the confidence in performing accurate routine screenings. They do so in fewer than 70 percent of their patients. If you are a general dentist, reach out for help. By completing education courses and attending upcoming lectures, you can better prepare for screening for sleep apnea.