Dentists wield enormous power over their patients’ medical outcomes – positive and negative – and it starts with our intimacy with people’s airways.
2019 will be remembered as a seminal moment for dentistry. Are you and your practice prepared? The important role that dentistry can play in airway centered disorders (ACD) is being discovered by more and more practitioners and more and more of the public. It has been suggested that the role of the dentist should be screening, referral and the fabrication of oral appliances, but could it be more?
The Foundation for Airway Health was created help the public realize their maximum potential by championing the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of airway related disorders. The Foundation is posting “success stories” of remarkable turnabouts when people with pain, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis ,etc. are treated for the underlying airway issues. In most cases, patients had multiple treatments before airway was even considered.
The importance of dentistry in treating sleep is not new. In fact, the Canadian Dental Association issued a position paper in 2005 (and revised in 2012) on the dentist’s role in sleep and snoring. In October 2017, the ADA adopted a resolution that “dentists can and do play an essential role in the multidisciplinary care of patients with certain sleep related breathing disorders and are well positioned to identify patients at greater risk of SRBD”. The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), and the ACP (American College of Prosthodontists) issued similar position statements in recent years. The AAO (American Association of Orthodontists), recent winter meeting was titled, “Sleep Apnea and Orthodontics: Consensus and Guidance.
At the present time, airway/sleep disorders have been implicated in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, Alzheimers disease and even cancer. They have also been found to play a role in anxiety, chronic pain, learning. performance and childhood growth and development. At the same new successful treatment protocols for all of the above are focusing on multidisciplinary collaboration. Collaboration cures!
The Foundation for Airway Health asks what do you now offer your patient for their airway health. How would you answer your patient’s question, “What are you doing to protect, maintain and restore my airway?” Fifty per cent of patients in any practice have an airway problem. Are you recognizing the presence of tongue ties, poor muscle tone, and mouth breathing? Do bruxism, failing restorations and unresponsive periodontal disease make you think airway? Are you part of a multidisciplinary team that addresses the dental components of chronic disease, learning difficulties and poor performance? What will you do to recognize more cases and offer more care in 2019? I encourage each of you and your team to make a commitment to become “Airway Advocates”.
The Foundation for Airway Health has created an Airway Advocate program and will be celebrating World Airway Health Day, October 2, 2019. The goal is to recognize one million men, women and children with ACD. Physicians, other practitioners, hygienists, nurses, teachers and parents are becoming Airway Advocates and screening for the signs and symptoms of ACD. The Foundation is also asking all healthcare practitioners who participate in the treatment of ACD to go to the foundation website and be listed as a resource for those seeking care.
The dental profession is ideally situated to be a leader in this campaign. Patients visit their dentist on a regular basis and spend more time with their dental hygienist than any other healthcare practitioner. It only takes a few additional minutes to do an airway screening.
Make your own airway education checklist for 2019:
- Attend/have your team take an Airway Advocate Workshop
- Connect the dots between systemic and oral health problems
- Become part of a team for airway interdisciplinary care and communication
- Become an Airway Advocate and be listed as a referral resource
- Become a true “physician of the mouth”
- Attend the Collaboration Cures Conference, October 15-17, 2019
Become an Airway Advocate in 2019 and change lives. OH
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About the Author
Dr. Howard Hindin practices general dentistry, with an emphasis on cosmetic dentistry, temporomandibular joint disorders, craniofacial pain and sleep dental medicine. An acknowledged pioneer in the relationship between dental issues and whole body health, he was one of the first dentists to eliminate the use of mercury from his practice. Dr. Hindin is the co-founder and president of the Academy of Physiologic Medicine and Dentistry (AAPMD).