Dental sleep medicine is an area of dental practice that focuses on the use of COAT (Continuous Open Airway Therapy)® to treat sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Dentists work together with sleep physicians to identify the best treatment for each patient.
At SomnoMed, we strongly believe that dentists can dramatically impact patient’s lives by changing their quality of sleep. Dentistry has the ability to help improve and save lives.
Dentists and COAT (Continuous Open Airway Therapy)
An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. It fits like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. A custom-fit SomnoDent oral device is an effective treatment that prevents the airway from collapsing by supporting the jaw in a forward position – resulting in COAT.
Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring is a common sign or symptom for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); however, is not always the only indicator. Prior to treatment, patients should be diagnosed by a board certified sleep medicine physician. If you have snoring without sleep apnea, your doctor should give you a prescription for an oral device. If you have sleep apnea, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. The CPAP machine keeps your airway open by providing forced air through flexible tubing. CPAP therapy requires you to wear a mask as you sleep. Although CPAP therapy is effective, some people are unable to adhere to it. Your doctor should consider giving you a prescription for a sleep apnea appliance if you are unable to tolerate CPAP therapy or prefer an alternate treatment. Many people like an oral appliance because it is comfortable, quiet, portable and easy to wear. In some severe cases of sleep apnea, upper airway surgery may be another treatment option.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), oral devices are indicated for:
- Mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients who are CPAP intolerant or prefer COAT to CPAP
- Patients who request treatment of primary snoring
COAT™ Insurance Coverage
Oral appliance therapy is virtually always covered by medical insurance and government payers (Medicare, Medicaid and military) using the same criteria that is used for coverage of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Just like CPAP therapy, there are several required records that the dentist must have in order to acquire coverage, including a written prescription for the appliance from a physician (the family physician or sleep doctor) to treat sleep apnea. However, medical insurance companies do not cover treatment for snoring only.
In order for a physician to prescribe therapy to treat sleep apnea, a sleep study is required in order to diagnose the patient with sleep apnea. Many payers (insurance companies) require this as well. This is why it is important that dentists build partnerships with referring sleep physicians.
For an overview on the current process of obtaining insurance payments, check out the AADSM Reimbursement Guide for Oral Appliance Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
The Dental Practitioner’s Role
- Recognize oral signs and symptoms of OSA
- Identify and screen patients who snore or may suffer from OSA
- Educate patients on potential sleep-disordered breathing issues
- Promote potential patients to be tested (PSG/HST)
- Provide alternative treatment to CPAP and Surgery
- Selection, fitting, adjustments, and follow-up care of SomnoDent oral devices
- Be a part of the treatment team, along with physicians, dedicated to improving your patient’s quality of life through better sleep
Additionally, it is highly recommended that dentists receive formal training in dental sleep medicine:
- Certification in dental sleep medicine by a non-profit organization, such as the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM)
- Designation as the dental director of a dental sleep medicine facility accredited by a non-profit organization, such as the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM)
- Recognized continuing education in dental sleep medicine- click here to view our free, web-based and event-based programs
Your Patient’s Health and Quality of Life
The quality of your patient’s sleep has a dramatic impact on their health, well-being and overall quality of life. Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea disrupt sleep and increase the risk of severe health problems. Across the country, many dentists are prepared to provide SomnoDent oral devices to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.