Was this your first sleep apnea course?
Yes, it was. Before I took the course, I was somewhat familiar with dental solutions for sleep apnea because of Dr. Gio’s work with sleep apnea patients, but had never taken a course or worked with any sleep apnea patients myself.
What was the most useful aspect of the course?
There were many useful aspects, such as learning how to interpret results of diagnostic tests for sleep apnea. That isn’t taught in dental school. I also found it very interesting to learn about the comorbidities (simultaneously occurring health issues) of sleep apnea, such as hypertension. Did you know that individuals with hypertension have an 83% chance of also developing sleep apnea? I also learned that one in four Americans has sleep apnea.
That’s significant. Within the practice, do you encounter a lot of patients with sleep apnea?
Yes, though presumably we have not identified all of them. As we become more aware of the signs of sleep apnea, we’re more able to speak with our patients about it and to help treat this condition.
So you’re doing an important service by educating them.
We are, because of course the condition doesn’t just affect people orally, but affects one’s whole life. Not every patient can be treated just through dentistry; some patients will need CPAP machines as well. Interestingly, though, whereas the CPAP machine used to be the first line of defense in all sleep apnea cases, it’s now the first line of defense in only severe cases. For mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea, oral appliances—such as those we recommend and customize—are now the first line of defense.
Are the customized oral appliances that you recommend made in your office?
No, the appliances are made outside our office in a dental lab, but we do adjust them when needed.
What are your next steps? Will you soon begin treating patients with sleep apnea?
Yes, I’ll probably begin with some of my family members whom I suspect have sleep apnea—since dentists cannot make formal diagnoses on their own, we’ll work with their physicians to get these diagnoses—and then have oral appliances made as appropriate. I’ll also begin working with sleep apnea patients in the office. Eventually, I’ll attend another course in sleep apnea.