Dr. Avi Weisfogel always had a passion for innovation and trailblazing. Upon graduating from dental school in 1999, he founded his own practice, Old Bridge Dentistry. Over the next 15 years, he worked to build the practice into one of the premier dental offices in New Jersey. Throughout this period, he came upon the insight that dentists are uniquely positioned to aid in the diagnoses of ailments which affect the head, neck and mouth area.
It’s obvious that if someone has an oral cancer or palpable lump on their neck, a dentist may be the first medical professional to bring this to their attention. However, after extensive research, Weisfogel realized that many less overt disease processes were still going unnoticed, even by dentists who should otherwise have the expertise to identify them.
He discovered that one of these illnesses, and a particularly underdiagnosed one, was the potentially fatal malady, sleep apnea. Upon further research, Dr. Weisfogel discovered that sleep apnea was only diagnosed in approximately 10% of sufferers and that the disease was strongly correlated with a laundry list of serious diseases including atrial fibrillation, heart attack, stroke, obesity and even motor vehicle accidents. What’s more, Weisfogel identified that certain oral structural anomalies predisposed patients to this potentially lethal condition. Abnormalities in the larynx, pharynx, tonsils and uvula were all harbingers of impending airway obstruction during sleep.
Weisfogel recognized that the thousands of dental practices across the United States represented a potential vanguard against this insidious killer. With a misdiagnosis rate of 90%, he thought this army of underutilized medical professionals could be deployed in the fight against sleep apnea.
Consequently, he founded Dental Sleep Masters, a training program and association for establishing best practices among dental sleep medicine practitioners. The concept was an immediate success. Many of the dentists who went through this program experienced such a dramatic increase in the number of patients they saw that they abandoned dentistry altogether for the greener pastures of sleep medicine.
Avi Weisfogel’s genius in establishing the first program for systematically utilizing the nation’s reserve of highly trained dentists as a means to fight sleep apnea has led not only to remarkable success for his students, but also to saving countless lives through early intervention.