June 8, 2010
According to new research presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the majority of U.S. dental
schools have not adequately prepared their graduates to screen for sleep
disorders, which affect more than 70 million adults in the U.S.
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Researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)
School of Dentistry surveyed each of the 58 U.S. dental schools to
determine the average number of curriculum hours offered in dental sleep
medicine (DSM). DSM focuses on the management of sleep-related
breathing disorders, such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),
with oral appliance therapy (OAT) and upper-airway surgery.
Forty-eight schools responded to the survey,indicating that dental
students spend an average of 2.9 instruction hours during their four
years of dental school studying sleep disorders.
According to lead author Michael Simmons,DMD, D. ABOP, part-time
instructor at both UCLA and USC, sleep medicine is being introduced at
the majority of U.S. dental schools, but the total hours taught are
inadequate given the epidemic proportion of people with OSA.
More than 18 million Americans suffer from OSA. An estimated 80 to 90
percent of patients with OSA are undiagnosed and more go untreated.
Untreated sleep apnea can raise a patients’ risk for heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, among other health problems and
The survey asked which sleep topics were taught, which treatments were
covered, and which departments were responsible for the teaching of
dental sleep medicine.
Results show that classroom topics covered diagnosis of obstructive
sleep apnea, sleep bruxism, snoring and upper-airway resistance
syndrome, and treatments including oral appliance therapy, continuous
positive airway pressure and surgery. Eight schools also discussed
at-home sleep tests, which dentists can use to monitor treatment
Oral Surgery, TMJ/Orofacial Pain, Oral Medicine, Prosthodontics, and
Orthodontics, were the most common academic departments that taught
sleep medicine. The researchers were surprised by the variety of dental
departments teaching sleep disorders, and that DSM could not be
attributed to any particular discipline.
The authors suggest that because dentists see patients on a regular
basis, they can notice early warning signs of sleep disorders.
“Dental students and dentists need to screen for sleep-related breathing
disorders as part of patients’ routine work-ups. Then, with additional
interest and adequate training, they can learn to co-treat these serious
medical conditions with their patients’ physicians as an integral part
of the sleep medicine team,” said Simmons.
This abstract received the Clinical Research Award and Clinical
Excellence Award at the 19th AADSM Annual Meeting.
Abstract Title: Teaching of Dental Sleep Medicine in U.S. Dental Schools
Presentation Date: Saturday, June 5, 2010
Category: Clinical Research Award and Clinical Excellence Award
Abstract ID: 014
Public Relations Coordinator Emilee McStay
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
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