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Sleep medicine forum emphasizes health provider teamwork

San Francisco—Dentists can play an important role in helping diagnose and treat sleep disorders, and a 2012 Corporate Forum program at the ADA Annual Session offers dentists an introduction to dental sleep medicine.

Image: Fisherman’s Wharf: Visitors enjoy watching sea lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39. In the background, Alcatraz looms.
Fisherman’s Wharf: Visitors enjoy watching sea lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39. In the background, Alcatraz looms.

The Annual Session Corporate Forum course, Dental Sleep Medicine Protocols for General Dentists, presented by Dr. Steve Carstensen and Wesley Fleming, M.D., is designed to introduce dentists to diagnosis and treatment modalities for sleep disorders.

The forum is set for Oct. 19, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the InterContinental Hotel San Francisco, Grand Ballroom A.

“There are so many benefits to using dental sleep medicine protocols for patients,” said Dr. Carstensen.

“When I’m discussing my patients’ overall health, they frequently ask why a dentist would be concerned with sleep issues. I explain that untreated sleep apnea increases chances of heart attack or developing diabetes or cancer. I can help treat a diagnosed sleep disorder and, if an undiagnosed patient has signs of risk, I can refer them to a physician to see if help is needed. Either way, now patients see their dentist as part of their whole health treatment, not just limited to the teeth and gums.”

Dr. Carstensen also emphasized that collaborating with his medical colleagues to enhance patients’ overall health, longevity and quality of life has broadened his interest in dental practice and in his career.

“My dental team has also had the opportunity to learn and expand their skills,” Dr. Carstensen added. “Our patients’ input about how dental sleep medicine we provide has made their lives better has spurred everyone’s energy to learn and apply new skills. Watching my team members grow and discover their talents in ways the typical dental office cannot offer gives me confidence I have a unique employment opportunity, which cuts down on turnover.”

According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institutes of Health, at least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, while the indirect costs due to lost productivity and other factors are probably much greater.

“Most people take sleep for granted, until they suffer from a sleep disorder,” said Dr. Fleming.

“Chronic sleep disruption has been linked to both health and quality of life issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, stroke, diabetes, obesity, motor vehicle accidents, premature aging and a general lack of energy and enthusiasm for life.

“While some of these problems can be helped with minor behavioral modifications, such as eliminating caffeine from the diet, proper sleep habits and stress reduction, many patients require professional diagnoses and treatment.”

The forum will help participants learn how to integrate patients’ medical insurance to cover dental sleep medicine oral appliances, offering patients more cost-effective treatment.

Forum participants can become certified in SomnoDent therapy and understand how to implement dental sleep medicine protocols in the office.

The cost of the forum (course 6601) is $595. This session does not qualify for ADA CERP continuing education credit. Meals are not included in the session. Attendees will be given a one-hour break for lunch.

For more information, visit ADA.org/session.