Why Dental Sleep Medicine

Why Dental Sleep Medicine

Dentists are in a unique position to screen patients for Sleep Related Breathing Disorders (SRBD) as part of the routine exam and comprehensive medical and dental history. The ADA issued a policy statement on the role of dentists in screening and treating SRBDs back in 2017[1].  As healthcare professionals, dentists have the best expertise to evaluate the oral cavity and associated structures.  ALL dentists really should be at least screening their patients once a year for SRBDs.

Dentists who act on the implications found within the ADA’s policy statement will impact patient health beyond any expectations they might have made during professional training or practice.  As important as saving teeth is to a patient’s quality of life, dentists practicing dental sleep medicine are literally saving lives by treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Probably one in five patients suffer from SRBDs and there are many deleterious effects of OSA. OSA is associated with a number of comorbid conditions including stroke, myocardial infarction, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, glucose intolerance, diabetes, arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation, pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure, and depression.

Dentists should screen patients for SRBDs, and treating SRBDs can greatly impact the health, if not the lives of patients.  There is also a huge win-win for the dentists practicing dental sleep medicine: practicing dental sleep medicine can be a significant revenue source.  Most medical insurances and Medicare pay for the treatment of OSA with oral appliances.  It is common for qualified dentists to be reimbursed $1,500 or more (depending on the state perhaps much more).

Dentistry is poised to become the front line in identifying sleep apnea. OSA patients are everywhere and they need their dentist to help them.


[1] Resolution 17H-2017 passed by the ADA House of Delegates at ADA 2017, https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2017-archive/october/sleep-related-breathing-disorder-treatment-outlined-in-new-policy