If you look at any industry over time, there are stages of massive growth, development, and innovation that bring it into a new era. This profound or notable transformation of an industry is often called a sea change. Whether it comes through advancements in technology or new scientific discoveries, the most important thing is being aware and adapting so you’re not left behind when the sea change hits.
What is the future of dentistry?
The next five to ten years are a hinge point for change and dentistry’s first big step to being in the middle of modern day medicine. The inevitable change will drive dentistry to function similar to the medical field. There is more collaboration between medical doctors, better notes, and the process of billing medical insurance is drastically different from billing dental insurance. However, there is an overlap between dentistry and medicine that has been greatly overlooked up to this point: Dental Sleep Medicine.
Dental sleep medicine is a piece of the bigger puzzle that is called “Total Health” in dentistry. Dentists cannot just focus on oral health without awareness of total health because, believe it or not, oral health and development are 2/3 responsible for our overall health!
Oral Health is directly connected to Total Health—making dentists carry a bigger responsibility for their patient’s overall well being due to:
- The growth and development of cranial bones, which shapes the upper airway,
- The bacterial makeup in the oral cavity, which is carried throughout the body because of the vascular supply around the oral cavity,
- The soft tissue function of the head and neck, and more, which all affects the health of the body as a whole.
This hasn’t been the focus of dentistry in the past, but as the modern lifestyle changes and continues to move at a fast pace, our nation’s health will come to rely on dentistry adopting the total health approach. This is because dentistry is in a perfect spot to make a big difference! When you think about it, it makes complete sense. Dentists see a majority of the adults in the United States every year, often more than they see their primary care physician. Dentistry sees people from a young age and sees them often throughout their entire life. Dentists are key to treatment of an area that is responsible for our most basic and necessary functions, nutrition and breathing. To top it off, studies have even found that poor dental health could increase the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and other health problems. Dentists have always been great at being healthcare providers with a preventative approach, so let’s be superior doctors and prevent disease!
Dental sleep medicine is the entry point for dentistry to take on a larger role in total health.
From diagnosing TMD, Bruxism, and Pain, dentistry already does a lot for sleep health. This makes dental sleep medicine a natural and easy transition for dentists to provide care for more than just the oral health of their patients. The sea change starts with you. To change the mentality of patients and the medical profession- just like any noticeable transformation- we have to begin with education. Once a patient has the personal knowledge and experiences of dentistry treating and improving their sleep health, they will go out, share, and inspire others.
So, start with you. Become a patient yourself. Screen, test, and treat yourself. I call this “being the scientist and the subject”. The cross-section where sleep health, oral health, and total health come together is such a big picture, we cannot rely only on science and formulas to put all the puzzle pieces together. Dental sleep medicine is an art that needs to be developed keeping in mind the most important piece of the puzzle—the patient. If you start implementing dental sleep medicine now, even just on yourself to get perspective, you will not be left behind when the sea change hits. In fact, it will separate your practice and enable you to change the lives of your patients!