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Blog Feature

By: AAST Editor on August 16th, 2018

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Richard A. Bonato on the Role of Dental Devices in Sleep Medicine

Sleep Medicine | aast

Dr. Richard A. Bonato, Ph.D. Photo_Rick Photo 2013Richard A. Bonato, PhD, RPSGT, is presenting the breakout session “The Role of Dental Devices in Sleep Medicine” at the AAST 2018 Annual Meeting, Sept. 28-30, 2018, in Indianapolis. We caught up with Dr. Bonato to discuss his background and the future of sleep medicine.

What is your background, and how did you get involved in the sleep field?

I began studying sleep in 1986 after I read an article in National Geographic magazine and became fascinated with the topic of sleep. I was in undergraduate school, and there was a sleep research laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Brock University. After completing my undergraduate studies, I decided to pursue a master’s and doctorate at Carleton University. During that time, I started working at a sleep disorders laboratory in a local hospital in 1989 where I studied for my RPSGT and became registered in 1991 with a registration number of 604. I was fortunate to study textbooks during the daytime and apply my studies at night in the sleep laboratory.

What is the topic of your session? What will attendees take away from it?

I will be discussing the role of dental oral appliances in sleep medicine. By the end of my session, attendees will have a solid foundation in the types of oral appliances suitable for treating obstructive sleep apnea, when they may be indicated and new technology offerings in the field.

What is the biggest challenge you see sleep professionals facing currently?

The field of sleep medicine is undergoing change and polysomnography needs to embrace the change and adapt to it. Rapid advances in technology have enabled less expensive home sleep apnea testing, new research is suggesting sleep apnea prevalence is much larger than previously estimated, and CPAP compliance continues to hover at a suboptimal level despite substantial innovations in both design and technology. The future offers choice in addition to change, and sleep technologists will need to understand which options are best for specific patients.

How do you see the field changing in the next few years? 10 years?

More home-based medicine, more telemedicine, more sleep apnea treatment options, more data to manage. The proliferation of cloud-based technology and big data will mean we will have rapid access to much more private health data. This will be a mixed blessing because more information is better than less, but we also need to separate the good from the bad. We have moved from paper polysomnography 25 years ago to digital paperless today and have moved from exclusively laboratory based to a mix of home and laboratory based diagnosis. Our challenges will be how to manage the volumes of data, what is the most worthwhile data to manage and achieve optimal patient care, and how to ensure our data is secure within a HIPAA-compliant environment.