The U.S. Army Civilian Dental Corps and the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM), Dental Directorate are highlighting their joint advancements in dental sleep medicine, a field of dental practice that focuses on the use of oral appliance therapy to treat sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, as defined by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
To address a growing number of sleep-disorder diagnoses amongst Army personnel, Army Dentistry is working to improve support for Active Duty Service Members (ADSMs) requiring dental sleep medicine treatment as part of their comprehensive sleep medicine treatment plan. The Dental Sleep Medicine Initiative is an example of the MEDCOM providing quality of care to U.S. Army uniformed service members, and other eligible beneficiaries.
The cutting-edge program is supported with technology from ProSomnus Sleep Technologies. Army dentists can now mill custom-fitted oral sleep appliances for active duty service members. For each patient, a digital scan of his or her teeth and bite is used to create a small, retainer-like device. When worn during sleep, these devices effectively treat mild to moderate snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Each unit made in-house saves the Army about $4,500 as well.
These easily-portable appliances are a practical alternative for those cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy machines. While CPAP devices are the common treatment option for those with sleep disorders, the machines are bulky, require water, and place a mask over an individual’s face during sleep, which can be problematic for persons suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The custom-milled devices are more comfortable, easier to transport for service members, and improve general readiness. The scans used to create the devices are digitally recorded, meaning any lost or missing devices can be simply re-milled – a process that costs less than replacing a CPAP machine. Service members outfitted with these devices have praised the results, commenting on better sleep patterns and improved mental acuity during the day. This improved cognitive function improves mission performance and increases Soldier safety by reducing the risk of accidents.
This Army dental sleep medicine program is being piloted at Fort Bragg, Fort Sam Houston, Fort Bliss, Tripler Army Medical Center, and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). An integrated group of military and civilian team members at JBLM were recently recognized by the Army Surgeon General for their efforts.
According to Army Dental Sleep Medicine Lead LTC Philip Neal, civilian employees play an important role in advancing the agency’s sleep medicine efforts. Army civilians at the Army Dental Laboratory are supporting the initiative through device fabrication and quality control. They are being provided dental sleep medicine training featuring nationally-recognized experts and are using advanced technology to digitally design and mill custom oral appliances.
Learn more about civilian opportunities within the U.S. Army Dental Corps by visiting www.civilianmedicaljobs.com/dental