Make a Start Without Having to Know the Ending

Dr. Steve Carstensen discusses how over the years, options for dental sleep disorder treatments keep evolving and involve the collaboration of a team of medical professionals.

Options for dental sleep
Steve Carstensen, DDS
Diplomate, American Board of
Dental Sleep Medicine

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Drs. Robert Rogers, Alan Lowe, Arthur Strauss, Peter George, and others founding the Sleep Disorders Dental Society. As you will read in the interview with Rob Rogers, they had no idea it would grow to have such an impact on dentists’ practices and the lives of millions of people around the world.

Such it is for the beginnings of things. There is no predicting the full consequencesof taking the leap forward that alters how one sees, thinks about, or treats another. We healthcare professionals have our niche – for the patients we welcome to our clinics and to the community. How we use that special position creates the unknowable impact. You can choose to treat one person – for Dr. Rogers, it was his father-in-law (brave fellow, that Rob) and stop there. Or you can treat the next, the next, and reach out to make connections with colleagues – and everything changes.

What are you curious about? We open the airway with our devices, we collaborate with colleagues for diagnosis, co-therapy, and follow-up. Where in this process do you find ways to create? Not working off a script is one of the requirements of individualized, precision health care. Each unique presentation requires clinical wisdom and medical decision-making that keeps our care out of the black boxes of robot AI. May it ever be thus.

Be creative, because improving one airway has unknowable consequences.

It is in creativity that innovation blossoms. Problem solving is, first, recognizing there is a problem! What is your process, your commitment, to understanding the impact breathing problems are having for your patients? For their families? The cumulative effect on community health? Is it the numbers – the AHI, ODI, and HRV? Or is it the sleepiness, the crankiness, the low work productivity? Think you as an individual provider can’t change how your local population thrives? Can you know all the benefits treating one person may have on everyone in their circles? On the circles beyond them? Of course not. You can dig in and, getting to know your patient, offer the best solution for them. Be creative, because improving one airway has unknowable consequences.

Working to make sure millions of airways have been improved has even bigger consequences. You may not need to begin a whole society of medical professionals, but you can form a group in your community. Include everyone who your patients invite to their healthcare team, and learn from each other how creative, bold, brave steps can impact our world. If you feel gratitude toward those who have paved the way, opened doors, and taught their colleagues, honor that work by pushing the boundaries further out and make those early efforts pay off in even wider ways.

When considering options for dental sleep medicine, different therapies add to the team’s ability to personalize care. Read Dr. Carstensen’s article, “It’s never the same the second time,” at

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