Dental Sleep Medicine…. What?


Do you ever wonder why dentists have DDS or DMD behind their names? DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery while DMD stands for Doctor of Medical Dentistry, both practice virtually the same. In France, I have a cousin that does dental procedures like wisdom tooth removal, but he is called a Stomatologist. He first received his physician’s degree and then specialized in the dental side of medicine.

Why in the US dentists and doctors are not all trained as physicians and then specialize in different areas of medicine including dentistry, I do not know. Different degrees can cause problems in the insurance billing world. Insurance will often pay for a certain procedure covered by an MD, but will not cover the same procedure performed by a dentist, or the other way around. The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and its therapy needs are not covered by dental insurance and for the most part not covered by medical insurance either. People generally must pay cash for TMJ/TMD treatments. The jaw joint is a joint just as, if not more, important than say the knee, but receives no respect or reimbursement from medical insurance. Strange! You may have read my articles on Sleep Apnea and the use of an oral sleep appliance to treat it, instead of C-PAP (the mask that fits over your nose) machine helping you to breathe. Legally a dentist cannot diagnose and have a person tested for sleep apnea, only a Physician can do that. I refer people I suspect of having sleep apnea to sleep specialty doctors all the time for a diagnosis. The sleep doctors test and make the appropriate diagnosis of sleep apnea. The treatment MD’s most often prescribe a C-PAP machine, but if the patient refuses or cannot tolerate a C-PAP then an oral sleep appliance is most often the alternative. We are blessed in this area to have true experts in the field of sleep medicine. I love the change our combined efforts make in people’s lives. I believe I play an important role in patient care as a dental sleep medicine dentist.