Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 1 

September 8, 2023 Todd Sander, DMD

Early in my career, I was introduced to oral appliances for treating OSA. While I was doing my residency in the Army, we saw patients with sleep disorders who couldn’t pass their flight physicals. Pilots were desperate for an alternative to CPAP because CPAP would ground them. Today, in my adult restorative practice, it’s clear that many patients benefit from an integrated approach to their oral health care and OSA therapy.

I started my private practice in Charleston, SC, in 2005. I was working with occlusal disorder and facial pain patients and several of them were non-compliant CPAP patients. One day, I was thumbing through my mail and noticed Dr. Henry Gremillion would be speaking at the Hinman Meeting on the connection between bruxism and sleep apnea. After hearing his presentation and reading the recommended literature, I thought sleep-disordered breathing may be at the root of many of my patients’ parafunction, evidenced by their persistent symptoms and the wear on their occlusal appliances. And it was this same population of patients who needed significant reconstructive restorative dentistry.

At the time, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine was the only place where dental sleep medicine courses were available. So, I started with its introductory courses. It was clear that integrating dental sleep medicine into my practice protocols and educating my team and patients would take deliberate effort. There were questions I would have to address:

  • How much time would I need to invest in training for myself and my team?
  • How should I work sleep patients into my schedule?
  • Which of the 32 FDA-approved appliances should I use? (Now, there are several hundred to choose from.)
  • Should I invest in special software?
  • Which medical providers could I work with, and how?
  • How would I manage referrals?

My partner advised me to develop a vision and framework for my practice that would allow me to guide my team and focus my energies. I knew I would not be able to compete with others who were treating only sleep apnea patients. I decided that developing relationships with my patients would be as important for sleep dentistry as it is for restorative dentistry. And because I would also be dedicated to restorative dentistry, I would need to efficiently use my time to develop a niche practice in both restorative dentistry and dental sleep medicine.

With intentional forethought, my team learned how to screen interested patients and prequalify them for a comprehensive dental sleep medicine examination and consultation. I developed key people on my team to answer questions, gather the necessary information, and do preliminary work with incoming new sleep medicine patients. This preliminary work is much the same as that done by dental assistants in a restorative practice…reviewing the patient’s medical and dental history and taking digital impressions and X-rays.

When a comprehensive restorative patient comes to my practice, I do a 90-minute co-discovery examination, including sleep apnea screening. Then I take time in my lab doing diagnostic work with mounted models and plan treatment based on the radiographs, photographs, and other records we took during the comprehensive exam. The patient then returns for a consultation. If it is a complex restorative case, I spend time going over the treatment options, answering the patient’s questions, and developing my relationship with the patient. At this point, the patient is often ready to select treatment, and we move ahead with dental treatments. If the patient has the signs and symptoms of OSA, time is spent discussing the oral and systemic health benefits of having a sleep study and prescribed therapy. I refer my patient to sleep specialists I have developed a relationship with and know will provide a thorough evaluation. These specialists continue the OSA conversation and order a polysomnogram (sleep study) if deemed appropriate.

When a patient is referred to me by a physician to provide an oral appliance to replace CPAP or to be used in combination with CPAP, my comprehensive examination is a little different—with adaptations for medical documentation, but it is still 90 minutes. I have found that dental sleep medicine patients referred for sleep apnea treatment can usually be processed through their examination and treatment consultation in a single two-hour appointment. How I schedule my patients and the protocols I use will be discussed in future parts of this series.

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E1: Aesthetic & Functional Treatment Planning

DATE: October 3 2024 @ 8:00 am - October 6 2024 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 39

Dentist Tuition: $ 6500

Single Occupancy Room with Ensuite Bath (Per Night): $ 290

Transform your experience of practicing dentistry, increase predictability, profitability and fulfillment. The Essentials Series is the Key, and Aesthetic and Functional Treatment Planning is where your journey begins.  Following a system of…

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About Author

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Todd Sander, DMD

Dr. Todd Sander is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Dentistry at Temple University, and a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency with the US Army at Fort Jackson, SC. He completed three years of active duty with the US Army Dental Corps and served in Iraq for 11 months. Dr. Sander completed more than 500 hours of postgraduate training at the Pankey Institute for Advance Dental Education and is one of only three dentists in the Charleston area to hold such a distinction. Dr. Sander is also affiliated with the American Dental Association, South Carolina Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Academy of General Dentistry, and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Areas of special interest include: TMJ disorders; advanced dental technology; cosmetic dentistry; full mouth reconstruction; sleep apnea /snoring therapy; Invisalign orthodontics.

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Your Patients Want to Know About the CPAP Alternative

May 14, 2021 Steve Carstensen DDS

Most people who seek help for a sleep breathing disorder like snoring or sleep apnea are diagnosed by a sleep doctor and given a pressure mask, or CPAP. Millions of these are sold every year. For World Sleep Day 2021, Phillips, one of the two biggest CPAP manufacturers, surveyed 13,000 people in 13 countries around the world. Of the people who were prescribed CPAP, only 18% of them were using it. Of the people who were at risk, 27% said they would not take a sleep test because they did not want a CPAP.

It gets worse. The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a draft report about the use of CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea that concludes there is low evidence that CPAP has any long-term positive health effects. Any such report is debatable, but it is clear that CPAP is not the universal therapy that cures everyone some physicians believe it is.

The reasons people won’t use the simple device that helps them feel better during the day and, as far as they’ve been told, helps them live longer, healthier lives are as varied as any group of people can be. Common reasons they tell me include:

  • I can’t stand anything on my face.
  • The mask moves around and blows air into my eyes.
  • I swallow air.
  • It leaves marks on my face. (More of a problem when people actually went to work!)
  • My spouse hates it.
  • I want to travel, camp, RV, boat, etc., and it’s too inconvenient.

It is a wonderful time to be a dentist involved in airway therapy – providing good solutions to manage and resolve your patient’s sleep breathing problems. Oral appliances are better accepted by patients in every head-to-head study that has ever been done. While many people go to bed with their CPAP on, by morning, it’s off. Oral appliances are still in their mouths. Research points out that many hours of therapy is better than fewer hours of it, so the health effects are the same.

How do you talk with your patients about their therapy? It isn’t productive to bash CPAP – believe me, they’ll do that themselves. I tell people I love CPAP – when it is used, it’s great. CPAP is the treatment of choice for my father and brother. As you scan through your patient population with questions about sleep and breathing (you are using a screener, right?) you will find plenty of folks who want a CPAP alternative.

If you want to be a provider of oral appliance therapy, there is much to learn. The device portion is straightforward, but there are medical concerns, TMJ joint issues, finance, and office systems to sort out. The challenge is well worth the effort, of course. Dr. Pankey always puts rewards at the center of the philosophy. Nothing I’ve done in dentistry is more rewarding than helping people breathe.

Not every dentist will foray into providing dental sleep medicine but becoming well informed and adding airway conversations to your consultations will impact the lives of many. If you would like to dive deeper and develop your knowledge about dental sleep medicine and learn about the realities of introducing it into your practice, I recommend the Pankey Institute’s 5-day immersive Dental Sleep Medicine course.

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night with private bath: $ 290

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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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