HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA – We are all familiar with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired, even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. The main type of sleep apnea is OSA, but the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-2) lists more than 80 major sleep disorders.
Most providers are familiar with treatment choices for OSA such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral appliance therapy (OAT), and surgery performed by ENT physicians. Another therapy to consider is “positional therapy” for treating mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Positional therapy is a behavioral strategy to treat positional sleep apnea. Some people have sleep apnea primarily when sleeping on their back. This is called the “supine” position. Their breathing returns to normal when they sleep on their side.
With low cost and ease of use, why are positional therapy products not a first-line care? The simple reason is a lack of awareness, as well as the need for more validated studies. Doctors recommend more when they see more validated studies that detail better results.
According to Shad Morris, DMD, owner and inventor of a positional therapy device (a back-centered air bladder held in place by a breathable strap), there is no prescription required and most major medical insurance will pay, including Tricare. For HME providers, positional sleep therapy could be a cash category, sold either as a stand-alone or as an accessory to CPAP.
In a perfect world, physicians, dentists, and HME providers work together to treat patients in a cohesive team effort, free from turf battles. Referrals and recommendations should be made based on what’s best for patients—whether it’s CPAP, OAT, surgery, or positional therapy. Providers must educate patients and let them know about all the options.
The American Sleep & Breathing Academy (ASBA) is primarily concerned with dental sleep medicine, but our members know that all avenues of care must be explored and all options provided to patients. The number of undiagnosed OSA sufferers is huge, and if we all focus on what’s best for patients, the business side will naturally progress.
I have been to several Medtrade Spring shows, and sleep medicine will again be well represented at this year’s show, scheduled for March 3-5, 2020, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. It’s a great place to get started and/or explore additional options within the sleep world.
Alan Hickey is director of Online Education for the American Sleep & Breathing Academy, Huntington Beach, Calif.