Dentistry Broadens in Scope
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Since the beginning of dentistry, our understanding of oral health has continued to evolve, and consequently, so too has the scope of dental practice. As more recent advances in research have improved our knowledge about the relationship between oral and systemic health, dental practice has expanded to encompass some functions that haven't historically been regarded as a part of dentistry.
In this month's Inside Dental Sleep Medicine article, the authors examine dentistry's role in the treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders. Dentists can play an important role in screening for and treating airway deficiencies, but the importance of continuing education should be emphasized. Even after taking courses and following all of the protocols, if you don't have complete knowledge, you can still inadvertently design an appliance that creates a malocclusion. And regardless of the design, if you make an appliance to stop snoring without first sending the patient to a physician for a sleep study, you may stop the snoring, but are you addressing the cause of the apnea? If there is a serious underlying problem, you could potentially injure the patient. Dentists should work with physicians; ear, nose, and throat specialists; orthodontists; and other providers-it requires a team approach.
This month's Strategy article addresses some other nontraditional services that dentists are providing their patients, such as screening for diabetes, and explores how these encounters can be coded and billed to patients' medical insurance providers when not covered by their dental insurance. Personally, I don't perform in-office screening for diabetes, but this type of service can be valuable to patients under certain circumstances. Several years ago, I was treating a child who presented with a great deal of inflammation and bleeding. It was concerning because the parents were insistent that he was performing regular hygiene. I referred him to their family physician for testing, and he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His mother was grateful because he might otherwise have gone undiagnosed and could have experienced life-threatening complications.
Clearly, now that the relationship between oral and systemic health has been established, it is more important than ever for dentists to transcend merely fixing teeth and truly become doctors of the total oral cavity. Quality education is fundamental to this transformation and should be sought prior to offering any expanded services.
And speaking of education, be sure to check out the highlights from Product Talk, a new video resource from Inside Dentistry, in partnership with AEGIS TV, that features Product Talk Advisory Board Members sharing their first-hand product experiences with host Mike DiTolla, DDS.
We are honored to have finished the work on this month's CE article by the late Charles John Palenik, MS, PhD, MBA, a great contributor toInside Dentistry and one of the greatest contributors to infection control education in dentistry.
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Editor-in-Chief, Inside Dentistry
Private Practice, Des Moines, Iowa
Department of Operative Dentistry
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa