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The ADA says dentists should be screening their patients for sleep apnea and should be the professionals who make oral appliances.

In October 2017, the American Dental Association (ADA) adopted a policy on dentistry’s role in treating sleep-breathing disorders including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It emphasizes that all dentists should screen for sleep-breathing disorders and that dentists should be the professionals who fabricate oral appliances (with a physician’s prescription).

Sleep-breathing disorders are “recognized as potentially serious medical conditions caused by anatomical airway collapse and altered respiratory control mechanisms,” the ADA said in a written statement to Sleep Review. “As experts in the oral cavity, dentists are able to question patients about pertinent symptoms during routine dental evaluations, and refer patients to physicians for diagnosis. The policy was adopted to address dentistry’s growing role in the multidisciplinary care of patients with [sleep-breathing disorders].”

In a news release from October, the ADA lists key takeaways that describe the role dentists should play:

  • assess patient risk for sleep-breathing disorders as part of a comprehensive medical and dental history and refer affected patients to appropriate physicians
  • evaluate the use of oral appliance therapy and provide it for mild and moderate OSA when CPAP fails
  • identify and address the side effects of oral appliance therapy
  • communicate patients’ treatment progress with referring physician and other healthcare providers.

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