Not Sudden, But Relentless

Sometimes things change in a big hurry – in my restorative practice, the day I took my first digital interproximal image was the last day I ever wanted to look at a film. When I put the files and gutta percha in the drawer and covered them up with referral pads for the endodontist across the street. The time when a patient looked at me and thanked me for explaining her sleep test and giving her hope that she could sleep well, quietly, and safely with my help.

Embracing change
Steve Carstensen, DDS
Diplomate, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine

Sometimes things change slowly. I used one type of mandibular advancement device for years, because that’s what my mentor taught me, and I was very comfortable with it. As an educator, I was limited – as a medical provider, I realized some patients did not really match that device perfectly. I added another, then another, and now I’m trying new ones all the time. I still prescribe that first device (albeit with an updated design) because my view has expanded, reaching beyond what I first learned, but not abandoning the basics and wisdom that comes with experience.

How easy is it to learn something well, become successful, and take what appears to be the easier path by avoiding new information that challenges that comfort level! We can continue in that mode, as long as we keep our head down, blinders on, and focus on the repetition of ‘what works.’ Around us, however, nearly nothing in medicine is sticking with ‘what works’ and not striving for a bigger impact on community health. Dental Sleep Medicine / Airway Therapy / SRBD Treatment is a perfect example of that.

Our ADA Policy statement deserves much of the credit – in this issue you will read about how it impacts your practice in our Legal and Team columns, as well as a special section. In this first of two parts (look for Part 2 in the Winter edition of DSP), Dr. Jeffrey Cole, ADA President, fills us in on the ‘how and why’ of the statement, and leading dentists from our field give us their thoughts about the first six of the policy statement provisions.

Our ADA is boldly embracing airway therapy as a regular part of everyday dental practice. Soon, there will be a House of Delegates consideration on creating a valid screener to identify children at risk of SRBD – a direct outcome from the first Children’s Airway Initiative hosted at ADA headquarters in August of 2018. This effort continues, with the third CE event scheduled for June 12-13, 2020. I can’t let mention of the Inititative go by without a tribute to the first sleep physician to enthusiastically endorse the project and, with his powerful imprimatur, draw other sleep leaders to participate. Dr. Christian Guilleminault was a champion to nearly everyone in the sleep field and especially so to those concerned with children’s airway. He passed in July this year but lives on in the work of uncountable dentists, physicians, myofunctional therapists, and other medical professionals.

Dr. Guilleminault and others have worked for decades to bring us to the point where dentists have tools, education, a policy, and a willingness to step in and be the major change for airway health. It’s a wave that cannot be avoided – relentless.

Embracing change is imperative for a vibrant, thriving practice. Read Dr. Gilles Lavigne’s article, “Thoughts on the current and future practice of dental sleep medicine.”

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