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.
Know what to 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.
Here are some things you can do:
- 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.
- Ask simple questions about their daily health and complications, as well as utilizing the Epworth sleepiness scale. These options help in screening.
- 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.
- 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 an unsuspected sleep disordered breathing.
- 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 than 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.