The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has issued advice to dentists on the treatment of sleep problems, in response to a number of recent queries from members on the topic.
The DDU said dentists may be approached more frequently for advice from patients who snore following the screening of the BBC programme ‘Goodnight Britain’, which featured people being treated for a variety of sleep problems.
Dental professionals are being advised to ensure they are appropriately trained and qualified and follow a recognised treatment protocol.
The DDU says most dentists will only have the expertise to treat uncomplicated snoring with an oral appliance and may need to refer patients with more complex problems to their GP.
Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, Head of the DDU, said: 'It is estimated that a third of the UK population snore and while most people will not be seriously troubled by their habit, others may benefit from treatment, which might include the provision of an oral appliance by a dentist.
'Before treating patients for snoring problems, it is important that dentists ensure they are appropriately trained and qualified, carry out a full assessment of the patient’s suitability, and follow a recognised protocol. The DDU offers members indemnity for this type of work, provided certain criteria are met.'
The DDU advises dentists considering offering patients an oral appliance to help treat snoring to:
• Carry out a full assessment of the patient’s condition so that you can judge whether they may be helped by the fitting of an oral appliance
• If you feel the patient needs medical or lifestyle advice, rather than dental treatment, because, for example, they are suffering from sleep apnoea or their snoring is associated with being overweight, smoking or alcohol intake, you may need to refer them to their GP
• Consider whether treating sleep disorders falls within your area of competence and expertise and ensure that you have undergone
• Follow a recognised protocol; the British Society of Dental Sleep Medicine (BSDSM), has published a treatment protocol
• Ensure patients understand what is involved in the fitting and maintenance of an oral appliance, the risks and benefits, any alternative treatments and the cost
• Keep a record of all discussions in the patient’s notes
• Ensure you arrange monitoring and follow-up to see whether the appliance is working.
Inform the DDU if you are planning to carry out this work and their team can indemnify for the treatment of uncomplicated snoring with an oral appliance, without the involvement of a medical practitioner, provided you follow a recognised protocol and have appropriate training.
*Goodnight Britain was broadcast on BBC One on 28 and 29 November 2012
*Snoring and the role of the GDP: British Society of Dental Sleep Medicine (BSDSM) pre-treatment screening protocol, J. Stradling & R. Dookun, BDJ, Volume 206, No 6, March 28 2009. http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v206/n6/full/sj.bdj.2009.214.html