Dentists who provide oral appliance therapy for sleep-disordered breathing must continuously identify ways to demonstrate their proficiency in dental sleep medicine to successfully expand their practices. As the field continues to grow, payers, physicians, and patients are looking for dentists to show they are qualified to provide knowledgeable care in dental sleep medicine.
This significant growth in dental sleep medicine also has led to an increasing number of continuing education (CE) opportunities in oral appliance therapy. However, dentists should be aware that not all of these courses are created equal. Sub-par education puts dentists at risk of using outdated methods and non-validated protocols, which ultimately can ruin hard-won relationships with payers, physicians, and patients.
Dentists must thoroughly vet educational opportunities to ensure that they are offered from a high-quality, reputable source and will prove a valuable investment that directly benefits their practice. To help navigate the cluttered landscape of dental sleep medicine education, here are red flags to be aware of when selecting CE courses:
- For-profit organizations: Any organization that stands to profit from teaching attendees to use a specific device or service cannot provide unbiased, educational instruction. While these courses can help dentists learn about tools of the trade, they are not a replacement for acquiring fundamental, unbiased knowledge of dental sleep medicine. In fact, the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring with Oral Appliance Therapy, published jointly by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), specifies that CE hours should come from a “dental sleep medicine focused non-profit organization or accredited dental school.”
- General courses open to all: Any course that is overgeneralized to draw as many attendees as possible is an indicator of inferior education. These courses are unlikely to provide the same value as courses that are tailored to different experience levels and varying degrees of knowledge about dental sleep medicine.
- Joint teaching and testing boards: Any educational provider that doesn’t separate its teaching board from its testing board should be approached with great caution. When testing and education are governed by separate boards, it’s much more likely that the thorough education of the dentist, and not the profit of the organization, will be the main focus.
- Access to exam questions: Any course that gives access to current exam questions in advance is not worth your time or effort, and it is certainly not of the caliber that sleep physicians will respect. Making current exam questions available in advance, whether they are mixed into questions handed out in a review course or “previewed” as part of the preparation process, should be a large red flag for any dentist.
Continuing education courses provide the knowledge needed to stay at the forefront of dental sleep medicine only when they meet the criteria outlined above. As more payers, physicians, and patients are seeking and requesting qualified dentists, the source of your dental sleep medicine training and education is of critical importance.
The AADSM is a reputable, non-profit organization that has 25 years of proven success for growing dental sleep medicine practices. Its courses are recognized by the ADA Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP), offer a customized educational approach, and are solid preparation for the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Diplomate certification, which is the distinction that sleep physicians know and respect.
In addition to in-person courses, the AADSM offers Q&A webinars, online modules, practice management support, and online study clubs to provide a simple, convenient way to earn CE credits and become qualified in the field of dental sleep medicine. For more information about AADSM CE courses and upcoming opportunities, visit aadsm.org.
As the field of dental sleep medicine continues to grow, so will the demand for dentists qualified in the treatment of sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy. Through continuing education, you can demonstrate that you’re dedicated to acquiring the knowledge needed to stay up-to-date and qualified to provide optimal patient care.
Harold A. Smith, DDS, is the president of the AADSM and the clinical director of Dental Sleep Medicine of Indiana. He also serves as the dental consultant to the major Indianapolis hospital sleep disorder centers and is on the faculty at Indiana University School of Medicine’s Fellowship program in sleep medicine. As a distinguished speaker and ABDSM Diplomate, he also is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists and is an active member of the AASM, ADA, IDA, IDDS, and AGD. He is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Dentistry. And, Dr. Smith served as president of the AADSM from 2002 to 2004, received the AADSM Distinguished Service Award in 2006, and acted as president of the ABDSM from 2008 to 2010.