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What Is Airway Dentistry?

March 24, 2022

The American Sleep and Breathing Academy (ASBA) once referred to the airway as “dentistry’s hidden calling.” Airway dentistry is a rapidly growing field that focuses on assessing and treating disorders that affect the mouth, jaw, and facial muscles, developed in response to the global sleep and breathing epidemic.

Deciding to branch into sleep and breathing disorders is a big decision. It involves continuing education, commitment, patience, and clinical support, not to mention it includes significant upfront costs to the dentist and dental owner. That said, airway dentistry is critical, and dentists themselves are the front line to screening and treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other related conditions.

Are you considering airway dentistry? Here’s the 101.

OSA Is Lurking Right Under Your Nose

Sleep and breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are on the rise and are attributed to several factors, including poor airway alignment. A 2019 article in Reuters Health suggests that more than one-third of adults in the United States suffer from the condition.

“This research highlights that there is a large burden of disease that may not be widely appreciated and speaks to the need to leverage new technology and efficient clinical pathways to diagnose and treat these patients,” shares Dr. Adam Benjafield of ResMed, a manufacturer of medical breathing devices in San Diego, California.

OSA is a serious condition that can cause heart problems, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and even premature death. Many individuals don’t realize that OSA is lurking right under your nose. It’s affecting your patients, your spouse, your child, and maybe even you. Therefore, it is essential to ask each patient the following questions during their routine dental visit.

  • Do you snore?
  • Has your bed partner mentioned that you stop breathing periodically?
  • Do you experience restlessness or insomnia?
  • Do you wake with a headache, moodiness, or exhaustion?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, submitting them to an at-home sleep assessment is an excellent idea. As a dental professional, you can provide a low-cost, simple, and noninvasive sleep assessment. Once you’ve adequately screened the patient, in partnership with a medical professional, you’ll be able to determine if treatment is necessary and what course of action best suits the individual’s wants and needs.

New Therapies in Airway Dentistry

While a CPAP works well for some, many individuals are noncompliant. The same goes for traditional oral appliances. Their forward hold on the jaw can be painful or uncomfortable when worn for long periods. On top of that, neither of these therapies treat the root cause of OSA. It is a Band-Aid, which means lifelong intervention.

Thankfully, new therapies, such as the Vivos Method, exist and provide a noninvasive, simple, and finite treatment. The typical patient journey with Vivos is around 12–24 months once an appliance is developed and worn. Why the better outlook? It’s because Vivos tackles the root cause of OSA: an underdeveloped airway.

During your transition into airway dentistry, you’ll learn how western culture has influenced the modern diet with its shortened span of breastfeeding, soft food diet, and poor habits, such as mouth breathing and pacifier use. These components limit the body’s ability to develop fully and create a narrow, high palette, insufficient for the tongue and proper airflow.

Addressing the #1 Concern in Airway Dentistry: Medical Billing

One of the most common concerns for professionals breaking into airway dentistry is how to navigate medical billing. You’ll also need to consider the nuances, as this differs from traditional dentistry. This is another reason to partner with someone when branching into sleep and airway.

Take Vivos, for example. AireO2 by Vivos is a HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based, certified EHR for dental practice management, clinical charting, and medical billing. AireO2 can help dental offices manage and run their entire sleep, TMJ, and surgical services in one place—no servers, downloads, or special equipment required. All you need is a computer with internet access.

Integrated with our medical billing services through our BIS team, AireO2 reduces the complexity of medical billing. Practices can work with a dedicated account manager to complete verification of benefits and preauthorizations, bill and track claims, and review real-time reporting. In short, Vivos makes it simple so you can focus on the things that matter most: your patients.

For more information on the science of sleep and airway, billing, and clinical support, and to attend an upcoming seminar, visit us at the Vivos Institute.