The average dental practice in 2017 is full of undiagnosed and untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) sufferers. The first challenge is uncovering your undiagnosed patients. This can easily be done using readily available questionnaires and doing comprehensive oral exams. Once identified, the process becomes harder. Convincing patients to undergo a sleep study is the first step. Agreeing to treatment is the second step.
People make decisions everyday based on their understanding of the problem and their individual needs and wants. Behind every good decision there’s usually an educated patient and a compelling why that’s been uncovered and addressed. Educating patients on traditional dental procedures is often second nature. The “why” may be pain that leads a patient to the endodontist, or lack of self-esteem that finally gets them to the see the Orthodontist.
Educating your patients on OSA and then identifying and addressing the “why” is often more difficult. OSA education isn’t straight forward and quick. It takes time and contemplation. The “why” can be just as challenging. Why does my dentist need to know if my OSA/Snoring is causing marital strain? Why does he/she care if my daytime sleepiness is causing problems at work? Why would my untreated OSA contribute to additional health issues? These are hard conversations to have with your patients, and you still might not uncover an appropriate “why”.
My “why” was Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS.) Wanting treatment for my RLS, I went to my physician and underwent a sleep study which revealed my severe OSA. I went home with medication for RLS and a CPAP for my newly diagnosed condition. My “why” had been my restless legs, not OSA. I took the medication and put the CPAP in the closet. My second “why” came a year later when I couldn’t get life insurance due to my untreated OSA. This second “why” led me to the dentist where I had an oral appliance fitted, which I wear every night without fail.
My experience was like that of many others. I didn’t know or care that I had a problem until a compelling “why” was put in front of me. Once confronted with my “why” I chose treatment.
I then discovered another “why” and wrote a book about my experience: “Kicking the Bear out of the Bedroom” Snoring and Sleep Apnea the not-so-silent Killers. My new “why” that the book addressed was the realization that Dentists needed a tool that would educate their patients on the seriousness of OSA and help them identify their own “why” and accept treatment. The book is an easy, quick read available on Amazon.
For more information on how to incorporate it into your Dental Sleep Medicine practice, please contact me directly and I’ll share with you how offices around the world have used it effectively to get patients to agree to treatment.