As a dentist in the 21st century, your responsibility to patients goes beyond simply caring for their teeth and oral health. It extends to their ability to sleep and breathe well, too.
According to a 2019 article in Reuters Health, more than one-third of adults in the United States suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition that can cause snoring, disrupted sleep, and daytime exhaustion. Left untreated, it can also increase the risk of heart attack, diabetes, dementia, and stroke. Let’s discuss how to become a dentist specializing in sleep apnea.
Step 1: Educate Yourself
The first step in becoming a dentist specializing in sleep apnea is to learn as much as you can about sleep apnea and how it affects patients. You should also be familiar with the different types of treatments available and how to diagnose sleep apnea properly. Once you have a solid understanding of the condition, you can start looking for ways to specialize in treating it.
One way to specialize in sleep apnea treatment is to become certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM). This certification requires you to complete an accredited training program and pass an exam. Many other organizations offer certification in sleep apnea treatment, such as the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
If you’re not interested in becoming certified, you can still specialize in sleep apnea treatment by pursuing additional education and training. Many courses and seminars are available on this topic, and many dental schools now offer sleep apnea courses as part of their curriculum. One such company that offers hands-on training is Vivos Therapeutics, Inc. Dentists and their staff are invited to attend a seminar or other live training at the Vivos Institute in Denver, Colorado.
Courses are designed to help dentists and their staff recognize the critical role they play in screening and treating OSA and other sleep conditions. Vivos brings in clinical advisors and leading industry experts to explain the differences between treating OSA symptoms and addressing the underlying cause. Additionally, you’ll gain insight into the downstream health concerns experienced by many patients suffering from OSA.
Step 2: Elevate Your Team
Another essential part of becoming a dentist specializing is elevating your team. It’s okay to accept that you can’t do this alone! Having a stellar team to back you up is key to achieving your airway and sleep goals in your dental practice.
As mentioned in the previous section, in addition to educating yourself, it’s essential to educate your staff. Bring them along to your airway training, get them excited to participate and screen patients, and even offer incentives, such as free screenings for them and their families.
It’s also essential to teach your staff how to communicate the importance of healthy sleep and breathing to your patients. Your hygienists are the primary communicators for your patients and, ultimately, will be the ones closing the sale. Getting your staff excited about the science of OSA and the root cause and the treatments available makes conversation with patients much more compelling.
Step 3: Make an Impact
The final step to becoming a dentist specializing in sleep apnea is to make an impact. After all, what good is gaining all this knowledge without using it? Treating sleep and airway conditions can truly change individuals’ lives.
OSA can cause individuals to struggle to maintain positive relationships as their emotions are erratic. They also tend to find work and studies more challenging as they can’t concentrate and experience brain fog and confusion. Sleep-deprived individuals also find that their minds are slower to process information and save it to memory. Lack of sleep can also worsen an individual’s immune system, rendering them unable to maintain optimal health and wellness, display a lackluster appearance, gain weight, and show premature signs of aging.
It’s time to change that. As a dentist, you can be the person who helps these patients get their lives back on track. All you need is the passion and drive to make a difference in your field and help those who suffer from OSA.
By understanding these signs and symptoms and communicating the science of sleep and airway with patients, you’ll make a lasting positive impact. As a dentist, you’ll be better equipped to support patients’ goals, address the root cause of their sleep or breathing issues, and live fuller, happier lives.
So, what are you waiting for?
How will you make an impact as a dentist specializing in sleep apnea?