THE OPPORTUNITY 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 a minimum of 40% – 1.3 million -of CPAP users who are non-compliant. So 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 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. Motor vehicle accidents. People are recognizing that they have the symptoms and are asking their Dentists about it. Some doctors have the solutions. Every Dentist would like to be “The Sleep Dentist.”Seminar training courses are now available through Sleep Group Solutions every week, 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.
A truly professional comprehensive dental exam examination (D0150 or D0180) should includemuch more than what the CDT codes delineate.
What is essential? Beyondthe obviousFMX, the charting of existing and neededdentaland periodontal conditions,and anoralcancer screening, there aremany other useful evaluations which are directly related to our services and are within our range of authority and responsibility. The Comprehensive Exam should also include measurement of vitals such asblood pressure, asleep dysfunction (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) screeningsuch as theEpworthSleepiness Scale, anutritional analysis and a carefuldiscussionof any notable items (alerts) in the patient’s med history. These things don’t need to be spelled out in the CDT code. They come with our desire to do what we know is right. .
TMJexam, facial muscle palpation, Mallampati classification (of the airway entrance)andan oxygen saturation testwill provide critical information. Any dentist/hygienist will chose how extensive they wish their dental exams to be and what should be included.
Would we be “spending too much time”in a dental exam visit?
Not if we care about our patient’s total well being, about our conscience, and about our dental license.
And is this nearly always acceptedbypatientsas hugely valuable and with appreciation? YES, it is, where the dental team shows their patients how much passion,careand skillthey have. I see it in many dental offices.The really successful ones.
A Hygienist is in a uniquely key position.
Here’s your opportunity to increase your service to your community, to create your “niche”, and to stand out in your community as a complete care-giver.
It is reported that 34% of the population has Sleep Apnea symptoms.One of the next three patients that walk thru your doors is a Sleep Apnea victim.Are you able to help them?
Does your New Patient Exam include a screening for Sleep Apnea?