As I pen this article, I am amazed at the intense interest in dental sleep medicine and the widespread good it is doing for millions of patients worldwide. The efficacy of oral appliances is well supported in the scientific literature, physicians are actively seeking dentists to become part of the treatment team, insurance carriers cover a significant proportion of the cost most often and great numbers of patients are clamoring to avail themselves of this “new” technology. My goodness, there is even a magazine dedicated to the practice of dental sleep medicine. This one!
This was not always the case. When I first stuck my toe in the water in 1990, none of the above existed. I was using a non-adjustable “boil and bite” appliance (state-of-the-art at the time) and treating about one patient per month from my dental practice with variable results. No referrals from physicians. No pre and post treatment sleep tests. No real clinical protocol. Never even heard the word “titration” as applied to oral appliance therapy. These were not easy times. Physicians thought that the few dentists who offered this service were quacks out for a quick buck. And we had a difficult time convincing them otherwise due to the dearth of scientific literature regarding oral appliance therapy. Flying by the seat of our pants seems to describe it accurately.
In the absence of any kind of formal organization to learn from or network with, I and a handful of other pioneers set out on an arduous journey to support each other in this nascent endeavor. We formed a tiny study club and met via conference call each month to review our progress or setbacks. (Notes of our meeting were created on a typewriter!) After a year or so, we put an ad in the ADA Journal soliciting members to join our proposed “society” which we named the Sleep Disorders Dental Society (SDDS). To our great surprise 75 dentists responded and we were off and running. I was selected to serve as the Founding President and we ran the entire organization out of a spare bedroom in my home for 10 years with my wife Mary Beth being our first Executive Director.
As the years passed, we grew slowly and gradually gained the respect of the medical profession as research on oral appliances began to appear in the literature. Ultimately, we changed our name to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and moved our headquarters to Darien, Illinois to be managed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This partnership has been fruitful over the years allowing us to quickly expand our membership, produce review papers and standards of care, offer world-class annual meetings, and basically become a respected part of the medical team.
From these humble beginnings, the AADSM now represents a unique opportunity for dentists to discover the basics of dental sleep medicine and develop expertise there-in over the years. Membership in the AADSM (www.aadsm.org) offers countless benefits:
- A discounted rate at the annual meeting with the opportunity to meet some of the finest researchers and practitioners in the field
- Discounts on educational courses given throughout the year (Essentials, Advanced, Practical Demonstration, Study Clubs and the Board Review Course)
- Access to the Journal of Dental Sleep Medicine
- Access to the Find-a-Dentist site for patients who need a sleep disorders dentist in another city
- Management tools (Marketing, Educational Slide Collection, Insurance Support Packages, Procedures and Codes for Reimbursement, Sample Letters)
- Insurance support and advocacy with third-party payers and the FDA
- Opportunity to get involved on a committee level with organized dental sleep medicine
- Enter the AADSM research award competition and submit a poster presentation at the annual meeting
- Online access to the website to keep you up-to-date with the news of the field of sleep
The pinnacle opportunity is to achieve Diplomate status from the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM), a testing organization independent from the AADSM. Diplomates are recognized in the dental and medical communities as those dentists who have put forth the time and effort to raise their skills to the highest level. We believe Diplomate status is going to become crucial with the present evolution of healthcare and possible future guidelines from Medicare. In addition, dentists who are planning to participate with medical insurance carriers, credentialing may very well be dependent on being a Diplomate.
Achieving Diplomate status is contingent on meeting certain requirements including but not limited to passing a 200-question multiple-choice test and the submission of a number of case studies. The ABDSM (www.abdsm.org) is continually working to accommodate members’ unique situations to make a fairly rigorous endeavor as easy and smooth as possible.
What a difference 25 years can make! Dental sleep medicine is the fastest growing field in dentistry today and one of the most rewarding. Consider jumping in with both feet. Membership in the AADSM is a good way to start.