Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dentists Take Front Line against Sleep Apnea

According to AADSM member Dr. Michael Simmons, sleep medicine is being introduced at the majority of U.S. dental schools, but the total hours taught are inadequate given the epidemic proportion of people with OSA.

"Dental students and dentists need to screen for sleep-related breathing disorders as part of patients' routine workups," Dr. Simmons told Dr. Bicuspid in a recent interview. “Then, with additional interest and adequate training, they can learn to cotreat these serious medical conditions with their patients' physicians as an integral part of the sleep medicine team."

According to his latest research, dental students spend an average of 2.9 instruction hours during their four years of dental school studying sleep disorders.

More than 18 million American suffer from OSA. But 80 to 90 percent of these people are undiagnosed.

Dentists are beginning to play an important role in screening patients for OSA. Because patients see dentists on a more regular basis than they see physicians, dentists can notice early warning signs of sleep disorders.

"Physicians don't always look at the patient's throat, but dentists have to look in the patient's mouth," said Dr. Mansoor Madani. "They may save the patient's life by doing that simple exam.”
A person with OSA may stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds or even longer, leading to serious drops in the oxygen level in the blood and eventually waking the person to breathe.

"If someone has a pre-existing heart disorder, and they are not breathing properly, they are more predisposed to heart attack or stroke because of that lack of oxygen," Dr. Madani said.

Untreated OSA can cause a range of health effects, including memory problems, headaches, decreased libido, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, and sudden death during sleep. It also raises a person’s risk for driving accidents.

Dr. Madani advises dentists to spend less than 2 minutes looking at the patient's neck size, body weight, airway, tonsils, and uvula. If OSA is suspected, the patient should be referred to a sleep physician. The patient will need to take a sleep test for a final diagnosis.

The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine trains dentists to screen for and treat this serious medical condition. Find a trained dentist near you.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.