It was only three years ago that I read that less than 1% of American licensed dentists were practicing sleep medicine. In those few years that number has risen to 4%. If we have approximately 205,000 practicing dentists in the USA, then there are only 8200 Dentists serving the needs of the multitude of people affected with sleep disorders.
According to a Harvard health report there are 18.9 million undiagnosed cases of obstructive sleep apnea and 40% (1.3 million) of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) users are non-compliant. That alone conservatively projects 20.2 million victims of obstructive sleep apnea who may be helped by a dentist trained in Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT). Is there any better opportunity today in dentistry?
Dental Sleep Medicine: The Hottest Button In Dentistry Today
Awareness of sleep apnea in America is at an all-time peak. The fires of awareness are being stoked by the public media and by social media. Patients are understanding and becoming increasingly more concerned about the blockage of oxygen to the brain and to other organs. Strokes. Heart attacks. Diabetes. Dementia. People are recognizing that they have the symptoms and are asking their Dentists about it. Some Dentists have the solutions. Every Dentist would like to be “The Sleep Dentist.”
Join the Battle
Seminar training courses are now available through Sleep Group Solutions every weekend, in different cities throughout the United States. They are training dentists to discover the victims of sleep apnea and to treat them with the most appropriate modalities. Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is the most convenient and preferred therapy for the mild and moderate cases and for those patients who cannot tolerate the CPAP device. Fortunately, this is where the dentist in shining armor rides in on a white horse to the rescue. Dentists, we like to say, are on the front line of the battle against sleep apnea. Dentists are in the optimum position to see the signs and symptoms and can offer the most preferred solutions to the problem.
Keys to success
Success in treatment acceptance and end point attainment varies with, and depends upon, each individual dentist’s knowledge and determination and his or her patient’s cooperation. The training program will present the tools, screening protocols, diagnostic equipment, techniques and verbal skills for success. As in other healthcare therapies, a partnership between the professional provider and the patient is the key to success. The patient’s cooperation is essential.
Take for example, periodontal disease therapy. The dentist and the hygienist will remove the disease, teach the patient how to maintain periodontal health, and then monitor the patient’s progress for the patient’s lifetime. Sleep apnea can be considered an episodic disease like periodontal disease, diabetes and cardiac disease. For these there is no cure; only a lifetime of maintenance to keep these diseases under control. Failure of patients to comply will result in an episodic return of the symptoms in any of these cases. The Care Giver will teach the patient how to maintain their health. Compliance will keep them under control. So that explains the patient’s role in the “Partnership for Success”.
The Dentist’s Responsibilities
Beginning with the seminar training program, the dentist must be 100% committed to success (Anything we endeavor will be more likely to be achieved when we are positive that we will succeed). The seminar training is only the beginning of the learning process. We must retain what we have learned, continue to study, to research all new ideas and to practice our treatment plan presentations with our teams. Everyone on the team must be skilled and committed.
You are in the right place at the right time. As a Care Giver, think of how you can serve a critical need of your patients. They are looking for your help. In the words of the Great Master Yoda, in the classic Star Wars movies, “There is no ‘try’; there is only do or do not.”
You may contact me with questions or for assistance in becoming “The Dental Sleep Professional”.
Charles Kravitz, DDS
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