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The Role of the Dental Hygienist in screening for Sleep Disordered Breathing


It is estimated that there are 50 MILLION people in the United States that have some form of Sleep Disordered Breathing.

Consider the statement above when you think about implementing Dental Sleep Medicine into your practice.  It is estimated that 50+% of the patients in an average dental practice could benefit greatly from management of their airway during sleep, not only from a health perspective but from a quality of life standpoint as well.

Dentists see their patients on a regular basis.  The dental hygienist is set up to screen for sleep disordered breathing in patients without adding a substantial amount of time to the routine exam.  During a routine exam, the hygienist has the complete attention of the patient. With the addition of two or three questions, the Hygienist can single out prospective candidates for oral appliance therapy.

So what exactly should be added to a routine screening to screen for Sleep Disordered Breathing?

  1. Adjusted Neck Circumference (ANC) should be implemented with each patient. (If you need a copy of this, email Airway Management’s customer service at contactami@amisleep.com)
  2. A few questions about the patient’s sleep. Some examples:
    1. Do you wake up with morning headaches?
    2. Do you have a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up?
    3. Does your bed partner say you snore or “stop breathing” at night?

If you would like to learn more about implementing Dental Sleep Medicine in your practice, please visit our list of sponsored courses to find a course near you.

Bottom line, be proactive and when indications are found, discuss with the patient their options for diagnosis and treatment, including the TAP System.