Dental Sleep Medicine (DSM) Conference: Research Trends Emerge

The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) hosted the Academy’s 26th Annual Meeting on June 2nd through June 4th, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The gathering, attended by more 1,200 professionals including both sleep medicine professionals and dentists, honored the winners of the 2017 AADSM Research Award. Guest speakers gave a number of interesting presentations on advances in oral appliances.


Research Trend 1: Predicting Oral Appliance Therapy Outcomes

The University of Sydney’s Dr. Kate Sutherland, Ph.D. presented her abstract as the Academy’s keynote speaker. Dr. Sutherland’s research focuses on obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Her goal is to help the sleep medicine community recognize the heterogeneity of the condition with an eye toward better recognizing and treating OSA in patients.


In her research, Dr. Sutherland has looked at the expressions of OSA, in particular obesity and certain features of the skull, that are risk factors for OSA. She uses imaging tools as well as clinically applicable surrogates. Her goal is to be able to identify those clinical features which will predict the individual patient’s outcome in using therapies other than continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in particular oral appliances.


Other researchers have looked into sleep medicine’s ability to predict patient outcomes with oral appliance therapy. These researches include Maysaa Khojah, BDS, MS, who won an AADSM Clinical Research Award. Dr. Khojah’s results showed significant correlation between the patient’s facial anatomy and the patient’s outcome with regard to oral appliances.


Additional abstracts presented at the meeting looked at the correlations between oral appliance therapy outcomes and physical features that included the following:


  • Aerodynamics of the upper airway
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Dental anatomy
  • Neck circumference
  • Weight


Researchers from each of these investigative teams gave the caveat that further research is needed into which physical characteristics can be used by sleep medicine professionals to predict patient success with oral appliance therapy.


Research Trend 2: Advances in Screening and Follow-Ups

Patient screenings were another trending topic at the 2017 AADSM Annual Meeting. Presenters talked about screening for sleep-disordered breathing, assessing the patient’s quality of life after successfully reducing the apnea hypopnea index with oral appliance therapy, and timing the follow-ups to polysomnography.


Kristin Dillow, RDH, MS took home the AADSM’s prestigious Clinical Research Excellence Award for her work. She researched the screening tool used for sleep-disordered breathing. Dr. Dillow made comparisons on the suitability of the 2008 version of the scoring criteria versus the updating 2016 scoring criteria. She showed that the 2016 scoring criteria have significantly improved the exactness of the instrument.


Research Trend 3: Extended Use Studies

The AADSM Annual Meeting 2017’s third research trend looking back over the almost 30 years of the field of sleep and delved into the long-term consequences of oral appliance therapy. Two winners of AADSM Research Awards looked at dental movement in instances of long-term oral appliance therapy.


Mona Hamoda, BDS, MSc, MHSc won the Student Excellence Award for her abstract. The average treatment time in Dr. Hamoda’s study was 12.6 years, making hers the longest patient follow-up research on record. Dr. Hamoda and her team found no significant skeletal changes correlated with oral appliance therapy. However, the research of Julia Uniken Venema, BsC, DMD showed that oral appliance therapy can cause significant dental changes, especially dental occlusion, over a decade.


Both award-winning abstracts demonstrate that follow-up by knowledgeable dentists is critical in the long-term use of oral appliance therapies. Further research is needed.

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