Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States with an estimated 22 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea. Nearly 80 percent of those cases are diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) caused by a blockage of the airway. It is found that orthodontists are uniquely suited to treat sleep apnea, as the same examination for orthodontic therapy can be used to screen for potential sleep apnea patients. Moreover, the oral devices for managing OSA are often repurposed orthodontic appliances. Therefore, further study of how orthodontic therapy for children and adolescents can, for many patients, help cure sleep apnea is of pressing importance.
This years’ American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) 2019 Winter Conference was a leadership forum for this increasingly important topic. Titled, Sleep Apnea and Orthodontics: Consensus and Guidance, the conference held January 25-27, in Marco Island, Florida included more than 20 lectures covering a wide range of perspectives. Discussion and lectures offered an intensive examination of obstructive sleep apnea presented by dental and noted medical specialists and experts in the field.
In fact, the relevant ties of sleep apnea to the field of orthodontics is so significant the AAO has established a task force for consensus review. Attendees at the conference were the first to get an early look at the committee’s report and were able to engage in in-depth discussions to further share first-hand experiences with other professional peers.
“This conference is significant as sleep apnea is a major contributor to health-related problems and safety issues that have great social and economic consequences,” said Dr. Yan Razdolsky. “As orthodontists, we see younger patients and are in a better position to diagnose and treat early OSA in a less-invasive manner and for better long-term results.”
Dr. Razdolsky went on to say, “We have seen a significant number of patients who exhibit early indicators that can point to OSA later in life. As studies and research on the issue become more prevalent, we can learn to not only help reduce the number of those afflicted, we can also use orthodontics to address issues in adults using the same techniques. Just another added benefit to more adults having braces,” he added.
Thankfully the conference wasn’t all lectures halls. Dr. Razdolsky did make time to enjoy some of the activities available around Marco Island.