It is estimated that dentists see 3 to 4 patients a day who have problems with snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Most of these patients will benefit greatly from an oral appliance, however providing this form of treatment is different from any other form of dental treatment.
It is not like coming across a carious lesion or periodontal disease whereby it's totally up to you how you want to manage the patient. That's not the case with snoring or OSA.
While you can easily screen and identify your patients that have a high likelihood of having OSA, because it is a medical disorder, you cannot proceed with treatment without a diagnosis and recommendation for an oral appliance from a sleep physician.
The crucial first step in providing oral appliances for snoring and OSA is to establish an effective, efficient way of achieving a diagnosis for your patients. Without this one step in place you will not be able to treat the many patients that would benefit from an oral appliance.
The two key factors in selecting a diagnostic service for your dental sleep patients.
1. Locate a service close to your practice that provides home-based sleep studies.
The vast majority of dental patients do not want to stay overnight in a hospital to do a sleep study. Not only is it inconvenient, many report getting a bad night's sleep, in a foreign, often noisy environment, sleeping in an uncomfortable bed. It is my experience that the patient then has little confidence in the results of the sleep study as it wasn’t their usual night's sleep.
With developments in technology a home sleep study is now regarded as an accurate, more comfortable assessment of the patient's sleep, with the advantage of it being done in their usual environment.
It is also important that the home diagnostic service is cost effective with minimal "out of pocket" for the patient.
2. Ensure that the sleep physician who provides the report following the assessment of the sleep study is knowledgeable in oral appliances and the associated research.
The sleep physician will then incorporate oral appliances in their report as a treatment for the majority of patients.
Unfortunately there are still physicians that will prescribe the CPAP machine for every patent-including those with mild or moderate OSA. This will be a major roadblock in you providing oral appliance therapy.
The sleep physician you select can support you in many ways in looking after your patients and you will be able to refer for a final assessment once oral appliance therapy is complete.
In our training program for dentists we provide support in all aspects of providing oral appliance therapy including locating a diagnostic sleep service and a sleep physician close to your practice.
For more information or to register go to