Dr. Avi Weisfogel graduated from New York University’s School of Dentistry in 1999. Shortly thereafter, he started his own practice. Over the next 15 years, Weisfogel built Old Bridge Dentistry into one of the most respected practices in the state of New Jersey. Even with his extremely busy schedule of building a dental practice, he found time to conduct independent research into other areas of medicine. Always looking for ways to improve his service to patients, Dr. Weisfogel’s inquiries eventually led him to the severely underdiagnosed condition called sleep apnea.
A silent killer hiding in plain sight
Sleep apnea is regarded by many laypeople as a little understood or even comical disease, something, like fibromyalgia, with all the signs and symptoms of straight-ahead malingering. But medical professionals are quick to point out this disease’s deadly seriousness. In fact, sleep apnea is strongly correlated with such severe threats to health as heart attack, atrial fibrillation, stroke, diabetes, obesity and even fatal car crashes. It also causes considerable morbidity. Many sufferers are severely fatigued nearly every day of their lives. Many do not know why.
Sleep apnea goes undiagnosed an astonishing 90% of the time, by some estimates. This dismal rate of sensitivity isn’t due to any poorly designed test so much as it is due to poor education of physicians and other health care professionals who may come into contact with sufferers. But even with increasingly aware primary care physicians, people with the disease often slip through the cracks simply because they don’t seek medical treatment.
What Dr. Weisfogel contributed was recognizing that dentists are in a unique place to diagnose the disease in its early stages, when it’s most likely to be treatable. Dr. Weisfogel founded Dental Sleep Masters in 2010 to train dentists in the art of early detection of diseased and at-risk patients. This program has proven to be highly successful. Many of Dr. Weisfogel’s students have gone on to add sleep dentistry to their practice and have sold a combined total of millions of dollars worth of dental appliances. Ultimately, these programs have saved thousands of lives and countless dollars in lost productivity thanks to early detection and treatment of sleep apnea.