Did you know Dentists treat Apnea too?

Here is a Link to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine’s Patient Resource Page where you may enter your zip code and search for an AADSM dentist near you. Searching here will insure that you are seeing a board certified dental sleep clinician. Please click on the hyperlink to get more info.
Sweet Dreams
Daryl Coleman
Great Lakes Orthodontics
Tonawanda, NY
Patient Resource Page AADSM

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A lot of us see our dentist more often that our primary care physicians. General dentists have the perfect opportunity to screen for sleep apnea by noting the airway size, uvula, soft palate, tongue and jaw. If you are sleepy during the day, if you snore, if someone has told you that you stop breathing during sleep; if you have not discussed this with your doctor…by all means have a conversation with your dentist!

Apnea is caused when something blocks our airway and we stop breathing. The cause is usually related to the anatomical features inside of our mouth, which is also why apnea is highly hereditary. In my family it involves the tongue and jaw.

Next time you visit the dentist and you open up and say ahhhhhhhh - ask the dentist about your airway size, tongue, jaw, uvula and soft palate. If one or any combination are abnormal in size, and you have apnea symptoms, you should schedule a sleep study to diagnose or rule out.

Remember, sleep apnea can be life threatening if left untreated. No one cares more about your health than YOU, Have a discussion with your dentist next time you are in the chair!

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I am a dentist working in dental sleep medicine.I do want to express one concern. At the present time, the majority of general dentists in this country have not been properly trained in dental sleep medicine and, in fact, have no interest in the subject. I would not make the assumption that your general dentist would have the knowledge or the interest to help you with sleep apnea appliances. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine does have a group of members who have expressed interest in the subject. Each community typically has a small number of dentists, usually maybe five or ten who can treat obstructive sleep apnea competently. I would urge you to seek them out. a.b.luisi, d.m.d.

I am suggesting that general dentists have the perfect opportunity to screen for sleep apnea and refer to an MD or sleep apnea trained dentist for treatment. Millions of Americans are walking the streets with undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea.

Is the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine creating awareness in general dentistry to screen for sleep apnea and refer to your academy members?

Tracy, I think that you make a valid point. Since the general dentist has a chance to examine patients in an ongoing manner, they would be a logical entry point to get people involved in treatment for OSA. Ideally, screening for OSA should be part of a routine dental examination. I think that is a worthy goal. However, a lot of re-education would have to occur before that could happen. The problem that we are having in dentistry with dental sleep medicine, as I see it, is that dentists are being urged to incorporate it into their practices as another service after getting only minimal training. To do it well is really a whole other kind of practice, fairly dissimilar to general dentistry and it is really a specialty area. As they say, a little knowledge can be worse than none at all. a.b.luisi,d.m.d


I can not answer the question about whether or not the AADSM is creating awareness in general dentistry about the need to screen for OSA. I have been a member of the AADSM in the past and have ten year’s experience in dental sleep medicine, but am not currently a member or privy to that information. Progress has been made. 10 years ago I had one basic course from the AADSM and beyond that was mentored by other sleep dentists and read original academic studies. There were no textbooks on dental sleep medicine. Today, basic courses are available from schools, the AADSM, third parties such as dental suppliers and dental labs. There is at least one text on dental sleep medicine now, maybe more. A few schools now include dental sleep medicine with their undergraduate curriculum. Still the membership in the AADSM is probably somewhere between 2,000-3,000 and there are over 150,000 practicing dentists in the USA. This gives you some sense of how many dentists are interested in sleep apnea and how many are not. a.b.luisi,d.m.d.

The arena’s where Dr’s may be exposed to education in apnea are increasing…beyond the Undergrad level there are Mini- Residencies that exist in addition to the courses on offer via the AADSM and through many of the popular continuing ed programs that are already highly attended by many dentists. There is an ongoing push by many of the members of the Academy to get a basic exposure to sleep in the dental programs of more colleges and universities…What is inspiring is the influx of many young people, who have sought this knowledge on their own. There is definite room for growth though. I think that even if the Dentist has no desire to treat snoring and apnea that being able to recogcize the symptoms in a patient for referral could go a very long way in changing the lives of many patients. Tracy this is information that we as patients can ask of our dentists as well. Just arming ourselves with the information here could be enough to inspire a Dentist to seek more education. i have attached an article if anyone is interested written by an Academy member from Calgary AB named Leslie Dort DDS, which does a good job of expalining to the unitiated some of the dangers of untreated Apnea. This could easily be printed and given to Dr at an appointment. Sterring them to the aadsm.org website could be helpful too. For each of us who have had our lives changed via diagnosis I feel it is just as much our responsibility to educate friends family coworkers and prfessional types alike as to the dangers of untreated apnea. It all starts with us learning as much as we can about our condition and sharing our experience and knowledge with the people we know and love.
When Patients Fall Asleep in the Dental Chair

Dr Luisi
There is a link for patients to get to the AADSM patient resource page all the way at the top in the original posting. I think though however that there is absolutely no harm in a patient inquiring with their GP DDS with regard to apnea. The suggestion may spark conversation and cause for awareness whether they treat or not. The only way some will ever know that we are out there is if we speak up.

Daryl, I agree that patients have every right to expect their general dentist to have at least a basic understanding of what obstructive sleep apnea is and to understand that oral appliances can be used to treat it. a.b.luisi,d.m.d.

My dentist was the one that dx. me. I must say I’m amazed not from the groups here but in an other group the skepticism about a Dentist dx. & possible ability to treat.