Over the summer, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners approved the rule which allows dentists to independently diagnose, treat and monitor any dental condition related to benign snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Dentists interested in taking advantage of this must complete 12 hours of education in sleep-disordered breathing the first year of treating patients for such conditions and three hours in subsequent years. To make this process as seamless as possible, alumni and faculty at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry have teamed up with dentists at the UT Health Science Center dental schools in San Antonio and Houston to create a standardized, statewide course on the discipline.
The program is designed to cover the basics of sleep and sleep-disordered breathing through lecture and hands-on instruction. The goal is for dentists to become comfortable with the technical aspects of fitting patients for and fabricating oral appliances, which are designed to protrude the jaw, preventing the tongue and soft tissues of the throat from collapsing into the airway.
Dentists are interested in marketing to this growing population of potential patients. The Texas Medical Association, however, is not equally excited. Texas Medical Association, a nonprofit organization, represents the voice of more than forty thousand Texas physicians. Last week, Texas Medical Association filed suit in Travis County to prevent Texas dentists from diagnosing sleep disorders. This is viewed as venturing into the practice of medicine without appropriate education, training or licenses.
Texas is believed to be the first to embark on a sleep dentistry rule.