Economics – The word conjures up thoughts of Adam Smith and John Kenneth Galbraith.  But the economics of dentistry is as relevant to the dentist as it is to the patient.  Making dentistry available to our patients is of the highest priority.  It is why we do what we do.  What good is excellent dentistry if it is never done.  Delivering quality dental care requires a vigilance to team management, dental materials, the latest techniques and technology and the involvement and cooperation of an excellent laboratory technician. 

But what is the ‘true’ cost of a dental veneer?  And what is the ‘true’ cost of sleep apnea?

So a dental veneer can cost in my area anywhere from $850 to more than twice that, depending on the difficulty of the restorative procedure.  Is it one tooth that needs a veneer and must match perfectly the adjacent teeth that are to remain untouched and pristine?  This is one of the most difficult procedures that a dentist can perform.  That is, matching a restorative material perfectly to the adjacent (untouched) teeth.

But what is the ‘true’ cost of sleep apnea?  Now we are no longer talking about teeth.  This is just one of medicine’s many interfaces with the mouth. And although having good oral hygiene and well-maintained teeth are important to our overall health, sleep apnea is a serious condition that, if ignored, has a cost far greater than the cost of  treatment.  So if I state that a sleep study, done in one’s own home, an oral appliance (such as the Somnomed, a high end oral medical device) with titration appointments and a follow-up sleep study cost less than $3,000, this cost can save a patient’s life.  And what is that worth?  We have no idea what goes on during sleep without a sleep study.  If snoring exists and if there is any question of sleep apnea, get a sleep study. It can be a PSG (“PolySomnoGram”)  performed in a sleep center/ hospital or a sleep study done in one’s own home. Either way, getting that information is essential to treating the snoring/apneic patient properly.

It is wrong to make any sleep device without a sleep study.  An oral appliance will reduce or eliminate the snoring, but getting the important data tells the doctor whether the apnea continues to exist and to what extent.

So what is all the concern about apnea?  Obstruction of the airway during sleep may cause a desaturation of the amount of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.  Hypertension, stroke, diabetes, sudden cardiac death, depression, headaches, as well as daytime sleepiness, are just a few of the sequelae from apnea.  Many sleep physicians believe that we are only scratching the surface of what we know about the mechanisms of sleep.  Sleep is very complex and it takes up roughly one third of our lives. An essential one third.  Think about how you feel when you don’t get one good night’s sleep. Then repeat that scenario every night.  It can be brutal to the mind and body.

Think about this: You go to your physician for a checkup.  Your blood pressure is taken.  It is high.  Let’s say 185/105.  You are put on medication.  Perhaps you are put on a diet.  Reducing the blood pressure is the goal.  But what is the cause?  I believe this plays out in many subtle ways with sleep.  Not just with apnea, but with sleep.  The greater the restlessness, the greater the effect.  Of course, I am not saying that every hypertensive patient has apnea.  But how often do we look at the relationship?

So when I ask, what is the ‘true’ cost of a dental veneer vs. sleep apnea, I am referring to the medical importance of sleep apnea.  I have always felt, and continue to feel, the importance of what I do as a cosmetic and reconstructive dentist.  I enjoy my profession totally.  But sleep apnea brings the patient’s health front and center.  Getting the data from a sleep study allows for the proper treatment of the patient.  Treatment that may mean a referral to an ENT or a sleep physician.  A CPAP may be necessary.  Maybe an oral appliance. Possibly surgery.  But the importance of getting the data is essential and paramount.

Many of my previous blogs refer to sleep apnea, a reflection of how important it is to treat this condition.

Thanks for visiting:)  And sleep well. And if you don’t sleep well, get a study.