How One Dentist Took on a Killer

Ever since he was a child, Avi Weisfogel had a fire set within him. It was a desire to explore, conquer new domains and make a name for himself mixed with an obsessive fascination with medicine. So it went that after graduating from the New York University School of Dentistry, in 1998, he founded his first dental practice, Old Bridge Dental.

Over the next 15 years he built his practice into one of the premier dental offices in the state of New Jersey. But even as he maintained puritanical work hours, he would spend his off time reading about new diseases that had just been discovered and old ones which were proving difficult to stymie, even for modern medicine. He came upon the insight that dentists are uniquely positioned to diagnose and treat a whole host of diseases and conditions that may otherwise go unnoticed. So many diseases have signs, symptoms and etiologies in the head and neck area, Weisfogel reasoned, that it only makes sense for dentists to be trained in their early recognition. Armed with this insight, he set about to find ways to train dentists to catch some of the most deadly diseases in their earliest stage, when the patients were least likely to be aware of their presence and when treatment would be most effective.

After intensive research, he came across a major killer, sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, he learned, is a mechanical or neurological obstruction to breathing during sleep. It sounds harmless enough, but Weisfogel learned that sleep apnea is strongly correlated with a list of killers the length of a reaper’s scythe. These include, stroke, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. If dentists could catch this insidious killer early enough, they could smother its first breaths, while it was still in the cradle.

Weisfogel then founded Dental Sleep Masters, an organization dedicated to training dentists in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. This effort has proven so successful that many of his first students have actually quit their traditional dental practices in lieu of the much more lucrative sleep dentistry variety. Through innovations like these, Avi Weisfogel is changing the face of medicine.