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Getting Started in Dental Sleep Medicine

Dental Sleep Medicine expert Jan Palmer hopes more dentists will develop the knowledge to treat their patients who have obstructive sleep apnea, so these patients can have healthier and longer lives. In this introduction to dental sleep medicine, she shares some basic essentials.

“Dental Sleep Medicine is the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea by a qualified dentist, as outlined in joint publication from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine,” says Palmer.


The Greek work “apno” means breathless or not breathing. The absence of aspiration occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and close during sleep, obstructing the upper airway for 10 seconds or more. “You’ll also hear the word Hypopnea, which is shallow breathing or severely decreased airflow leading to a decreased level of oxygen in the patient’s blood,” says Palmer. Snoring is one of the 75 sleep disorders recognized as a medical disease. However, there is no medical coverage for a primary diagnosis of snoring.

Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a medical condition diagnosed by a physician. Often, it can be treated in a dental office. “The FDA categorizes custom-fabricated mandibular advancement appliances as a Class 2 medical device available only with a prescription from a medical doctor,” says Palmer. “This is proof that the dentist is not practicing outside their scope of licensure, and the medical doctor assumes the ultimate responsibility to oversee the patient’s medical care.”

According to Palmer, a dentist who treats snoring without a definitive diagnosis or ruled-out diagnosis leaves themselves liable should anything happen to this patient because they are treating a medical condition without following proper procedure.

Cost of Providing Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

A dentist can get started in dental sleep medicine to enhance the quality of life of their patients who have been diagnosed with little-to-no equipment costs. Once they have learned the basics of the disease and understand the condition they are treating, it’s easy to get started.

“Other than clinical training and administrative staff training about dental sleep medicine, the only expense would be a gauge to measure the mandibular protrusion. Everything else, including a panoramic X-ray machine, basic set-ups, impression trays and material, is already in the office. All you need is education,” says Palmer.

In a series of videos available for free for Patient Prism customers, Jan Palmer provides answers to questions many dentists have about getting started in sleep apnea treatment. In particular, she explains how dental practices can be reimbursed by insurance. For more information on her services, email jpalmer@dentalconsultantconnection.com.

 

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