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Collaboration with Dentists Essential to Increase Sleep Apnea Treatment Adherence

DARIEN, IL - Health care professionals understand that patients who can’t tolerate their therapies quickly abandon them, leaving them vulnerable to adverse health effects. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy remains the gold standard for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but studies demonstrate that half of patients become non-adherent after one year. By understanding the research behind dental sleep medicine and the best practices of a successful physician-dentist collaboration, sleep physicians can leverage oral appliance therapy to help their non-adherent patients move from being untreated to improving OSA symptoms in a few short months.

“Inter-disciplinary collaboration provides the best avenue for treatment when a patient is non-adherent with CPAP,” said Harold A. Smith, DDS, president of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). “The AADSM wants to help dentists and physicians work together to optimally treat adults who have OSA.”

Ellis Dental Oral Appliance for Sleep Therapy

Ellis Dental Oral Appliance for Sleep Therapy

Clinical Support for Oral Appliance Therapy

There has been methodical and results-driven growth of the dental sleep medicine field over the past 25 years, including a wealth of published research supporting the effectiveness of oral appliance therapy, the development of professional associations and the establishment of recognized continuing education and credentials.

Best Practices for an Effective Physician-Dentist Collaboration

When a sleep physician and dentist work collaboratively, the evidence-based Clinical Guideline provides best practices to help ensure successful outcomes. The following recommendations take into account the knowledge, skill and licensure of each profession for the ultimate benefit of the patient:

  1. OSA is best diagnosed by a sleep physician who is either board-certified or board-eligible in sleep medicine.
  2. Once a patient is diagnosed with OSA by a board-certified sleep physician, a dentist trained in dental sleep medicine can provide treatment with oral appliance therapy.
  3. When oral appliance therapy is prescribed by a physician, the dentist should use a custom, titratable oral appliance instead of a non-custom oral device.
  4. Dentists should provide oversight – rather than no follow-up – of oral appliance therapy to survey for dental-related side effects or occlusal changes and reduce their incidence.
  5. Sleep physicians should conduct follow-up sleep testing to improve or confirm treatment efficacy, rather than conduct follow-up without sleep testing. 
  6. Periodic visits with both the sleep physician and dentist are recommended for adult patients treated with oral appliance therapy for OSA.

As the only non-profit, professional organization dedicated exclusively to the practice of dental sleep medicine, the AADSM is recognized by the AASM as the leading national organization for dentists who provide oral appliance therapy. The 3,000 AADSM members have access to exclusive educational resources and practice management support that help them excel in dental sleep medicine.

“The AADSM membership consists of dentists who understand that effective communication with medical colleagues is critical,” said Smith.

Learn more about this collaboration by visiting the full release on the AASSM website.