Traditionally, dentists have been restricted to just working on oral disease. This has been true since the earliest dental practices in the United States were established. While some dentists, such as the famed Doc Holliday, had other professional interests, such as gun-slinging and gambling, the practice of dentistry in the United States tended to remain within fairly narrow bounds.
But Avi Weisfogel, one of New Jersey’s most prominent dentists, thought that the practice of dentistry in the United States could be expanded to include the diagnosis of other conditions. Dr. Weisfogel reasoned that dentists were in a propitious spot for the diagnosis and even treatment of many diseases that go without noticing by either the patient or, even in some cases, their primary care physicians. But what Dr. Weisfogel knew well was that many patients see dentists far more frequently than they see their physicians. This is due to the nature of dental problems. While somebody may be able to effectively put off a yearly physical or a colonoscopy indefinitely, rationalizing that they’ll go in six months or another year, to do so with dental conditions is often completely out of the question. Someone who would attempt to procrastinate on seeing a dentist regarding an actively infected third molar would quickly get an exercise in the limits of human pain tolerance. Likewise, somebody with a cavity or a chipped tooth in the front of their mouth has little choice but to attend a dentist, that is, if they don’t want to be derided for their obviously flawed appearance.
With this insight, Dr. Weisfogel set out to find a disease that would be amenable to diagnosis by dentists and that also could significantly improve the patient experience, adding value by recognizing a disease that would save the patient from suffering and possibly even from death.
Dr. Weisfogel found this disease in sleep apnea, a silent killer that afflicts millions of Americans each year. He founded Dental Sleep Masters, the first program dedicated to training dentists how to diagnose and treat sleep apnea. It has been a resounding success, with dentists all over America incorporating sleep apnea treatment into their practices.