Is there anyone in a better position than the Hygienist to discover the signs and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea? Your field of operations is right there at the opening of the airway.
You can see if a large tongue is blocking the passageway to the pharynx. You can see if the sides of the tongue show a scalloping which is indicative of a forceful gasping for precious air. Is the airway blocked laterally by large fauces or tonsils? You can’t miss the patient’s Mallampati score.
Do the occlusal surfaces of the posterior teeth show evidence of bruxism? Are the incisal edges of the anterior teeth worn down?
Does your patient have acid reflux? TMJ pain? A severely receded (retrognathic) chin?
And in your interview with your patient do you learn that your patient has daytime sleepiness, often dozes off while watching TV or at the movies, and even worse, feels sleepy while driving?
Do you see an overweight patient with a large diameter neck?
These are some of the more common signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. They are so easy to see. These warning signs are sitting right there in the hygienist’s field of operations and they are screaming out, “Notice us. We are here to destroy your patient”. “We can cancel out all the good that you do for this patient.”
I am also interested in hearing the answer. Here in south Florida there is a plethora of well trained, dedicated Hygienists who are working part-time for Staffing Agencies, or as clinical assistants, and in other industries, because there are not enough opportunities in dental offices. My colleagues in Philadelphia and southern California tell me the situation is similar there.
Do you find this to be the case in YOUR area?
From The Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Job prospects are expected to be favorable in most areas, but will vary by geographical location. Because graduates are permitted to practice only in the State in which they are licensed, hygienists wishing to practice in areas that have an abundance of dental hygiene programs may experience strong competition for jobs.
Projection data from the National Employment Matrix Occupation:
Do you feel that expanding the legal functions of Hygienists, and relaxing their areas of “direct supervision” will alleviate this problem?