Dr. Avi Weisfogel, a prominent New Jersey Dentist, has quietly transformed the way that sleep medicine is practiced within the United States. While running his own dental practice, he took a keen interest in researching ways in which dentists could continue to add value to their practices. It occurred to Dr. Avi Weisfogel that dentists were uniquely positioned to diagnose and even treat a wide array of diseases with etiologies in the head, neck and mouth area. If properly trained, dentists could often potentially identify neoplasms, structural abnormalities and other risk factors for serious illness. Dr. Weisfogel set about systematically studying which diseases were most underdiagnosed and which patient cohorts could potentially benefit the most from seeing multi-disciplined dentists who were trained to evaluate and treat underdiagnosed diseases.
Sleep apnea: the killer chameleon
Dr. Weisfogel started zeroing in on one particularly insidious disease, sleep apnea. Although, to most laypeople, sleep apnea sounds like a benign nuisance or even the questionable complaint of a malingerer, it is, in reality, a very serious disease process. Sleep apnea is strongly correlated with nearly every major cause of death in the United States. From heart attack, stroke and diabetes to fatal workplace accidents, sleep apnea is the most serious disease that no one takes seriously. What’s more, Dr. Weisfogel learned that over 90% of cases are undiagnosed. He thought that he could do something about that.
In 2010, Weisfogel founded Dental Sleep Masters, a company dedicated to training dentists to identify and treat sleep apnea in its earliest stages, when treatments are most likely to succeed. Word of the program quickly spread. Within its first year, Dental Sleep Masters was training hundreds of dentists in the new ways to combat this deadly disease that, like a chameleon, mimicked the form of so many other disease processes.
Many dentists have had so much success following the teachings of Dental Sleep Masters that they have actually abandoned traditional dentistry for the new paradigm of sleep dentistry. Dr. Weisfogel’s organization has driven millions of dollars in sales of oral appliances meant to increase airflow during sleep and has completely revolutionized the treatment of sleep apnea in the United States.