The Dental Sleep Medicine Evolution

December 1, 2017 Steve Carstensen DDS

Dentists make thousands of choices during their careers. From practice style to how to shape retirement plans, we get to decide how to do things. No matter what style of practice the dentist chooses, the mix of services the involved dentist gets to pick from is ever expanding. Dental sleep medicine is one of the newest services we have added to the list and many dentists are curious about adding it into what they already do.

Practicing Dental Sleep Medicine

Dental sleep medicine may be the closest thing to practicing medicine any non-oral surgeon dentist will get. Managing a chronic disease – sleep disordered breathing – is much like managing another one, periodontal disease. More and more dentists every day are taking up the challenge of helping their patients breathe better during sleep.

Membership in Dental Sleep Medicine organizations, like American Sleep and Breathing Academy, has grown by double digits each year. The calendar is crowded with courses on how to make oral appliances. Dentists are finding the rewards that come with this area of practice energizing and fun. Whole office teams are being reshaped to learn new skills.

Dentists are taught some medical basics during professional school, but years of concentrating on what we do for oral health can dilute the attention paid to patient health history, pharmacology, and medical comorbidities.  

Since every sleep disorder is a medical diagnosis, collaboration with medical professionals requires the dentist to revisit whole body health and recover the ability to communicate with physicians with appropriate detail. Patients certainly expect their dentist to understand their diagnosis and treatment strategies.

Once the person is diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing, treatment choices include positive air pressure masks, surgery, and oral appliances (mostly mandibular advancement devices). Dentists must have a working knowledge of each of these strategies, especially as we are relied upon for expert application of the third choice. Advancing the mandible to open the airway is the description of what we do, but the implications of that choice involve every bit of scientific based health knowledge dentists know. Incorporating sleep dentistry into your practice can bring new learning and new energy to your practice at the same time that you significantly improve the health and quality of life of your patients.

For more information join Steve at the Dental Sleep course.

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About Author

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Steve Carstensen DDS

Dr. Steve Carstensen, DDS, is the co-founder of Premier Sleep Associates, a dental practice dedicated to treating obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. After graduating from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1983, he and his wife, Midge, a dental hygienist, started a private practice of general dentistry in Texas before moving to native Seattle in 1990. In 1996 he achieved Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentists in recognition of over 3000 hours of advanced education in dentistry, with an increasing amount of time in both practice and classwork devoted to sleep medicine. A lifelong educator himself, Dr. Steve is currently the Sleep Education Director for The Pankey Institute. As a volunteer leader for the American Dental Association, he was a Program Chairman and General Chairman for the Annual Session, the biggest educational event the Association sponsors. For the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine he’s been a Board Member, Secretary Treasurer, and President-Elect. In 2006 he achieved Certification by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. In 2014, he became the founding Editor-in-Chief of Dental Sleep Practice magazine, a publication for medical professionals treating sleep patients. He is a frequent contributor to webinars and other online education in this field.

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