This is my very first blog and I am excited to share my journey. I have practiced dentistry for 31 years. Prior to dental school, I was a Respiratory Therapist. Little did I know then that my education in respiratory physiology would become a vital part of my current dental practice and my journey into Dental Sleep Medicine. I refer to it as AirwayFocusedDentalCare , which has become my passion, my mission, my purpose.
My story into airway focused dental care began in 2014 when I found myself listening to a presentation speaking about the correlation between dental conditions and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). One of the first connections mentioned was that bruxism and high blood pressure were related. Bruxism is the excessive wear of teeth due to clenching or grinding, typically but not always, while sleeping. Over the next few weeks, I reviewed the charts of my patients who had bruxism and/or were prescribed a night guard for bruxism and, indeed, a significant percentage also had high blood pressure. This is when I had my first aha! moment. Prior to this, a week never went by that I was not recommending night guards for my patients to ‘prevent’ bruxism or to replace those that had worn out. Side note, night guards do not prevent bruxism but merely decrease the damage caused by repeated clenching and grinding. I was not treating the cause of bruxism because I was trained to protect the teeth with restorative dentistry. The cause was likely Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB). This would become the beginning of expanding my knowledge and thus my practice in Sleep Dentistry.
My new education created a paradigm shift! Many dental conditions are interrelated with hypertension, fatigue, fragmented sleep, A-Fib, short term memory loss, Reflux/LPR, ADHD, anxiety, depression—and the list is longer. Research has shown that insufficient cranio-facial development is the leading cause of SDB including OSA; thus detection, prevention and correction are within the scope of dentistry. Previously, I was unaware that many of the dental conditions I was looking at in my patients were connected with some of the most common issues affecting our population nor did I realize how important it was for increased collaboration with other health care providers. In my practice, I refer patients back to their physician or specialist if we suspect sleep disordered breathing because many of these conditions require a medical diagnosis. Today, my greatest success in treating my ‘whole patient’ has been through collaboration with PCP’s, Neurologists, Sleep Physicians, Pulmonologists, Gastroenterologists and Orofacial Myologists / Myofunctional Therapists. For many of our patients, their best outcomes occur when we utilize a multi-disciplinary approach to address the whole person.
For many of our patients, their best outcomes occur when we utilize a multi-disciplinary approach to address the whole person.
My goal for this blog is to introduce many concepts and treatments currently being used to help children and adults. I hope this information has been useful for you.