Childhood Trauma, Integrative Medicine, the Mind Body Connection, and Dental Sleep Medicine – Yes – They Are All Linked Together

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WESTFIELD – Local sleep expert, Dr. Sunita Merriman connects the dots between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACESs), their long-term impact on health in adulthood, and on an individual’s sleep, in a recent continuing education article titled ‘ACEs, Integrative Medicine, and the Mind Body Connection’, for dentists nationwide, in the professional journal, Dental Sleep Practice, Winter 2020 Issue. She introduces a paradigm expansion of the role of Dental Sleep Medicine, (DSM) in healthcare, as it can play an important role in the recognition, diagnosis, and integrative treatment of individuals who have suffered from Adverse Childhood Experiences, in addition to treatment of individuals who suffer from snoring, sleep apnea and/or are CPAP intolerant, or non-compliant.

This article is the start of a conversation about how Dental Sleep Medicine can become an integral part of the sweeping movement of recognizing and addressing ACEs, and their impact on the life- long health and mortality of an individual. It will also help build a bridge between Dental Sleep Professionals, DSP and members of trauma- informed, integrative care teams. You can read the entire article at or at

Patients routinely enter dental sleep practices with issues that can complicate treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, OSA and which may not be evident upon physical exam or diagnostic evaluations. Emotional trauma may adversely impact sleep quality, treatment compliance, and overall health. Understanding how to identify these issues and associated comorbidities, discuss them with patients, refer them to mental health professionals when appropriate, and recognize what impact they are having on treatment outcomes is crucial to providing comprehensive integrative care.

DSM has much to offer to the field of trauma informed, interprofessional diagnosis, and treatment of patients. Medical and mental health professionals must be sensitive to the increased prevalence of sleep disorders amongst their patients, who come to them with a history of ACEs. Having a clear understanding of what is, and how it works is the first step. Building a close working relationship with a trauma- informed DSP is the next step. The resulting collaboration between these professionals will increase their ability to help patients achieve overall wellness, by prioritizing their sleep health, alongside their medical, psychic, and emotional issues.

With what we know now about ACEs, our healthcare and our healing must begin with a shift to asking, “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”

With over 25 years of clinical experience, Dr. Sunita Merriman is a graduate of the College of Dentistry at New York University and has the distinction of earning Diplomate status with two separate Dental Sleep Boards- AADSM, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the ABCDSM, American Board of Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Merriman, or NJDSMC, you can go to Call 908-389-0222 for an appointment. Located at 229 Charles Street in Westfield, Dr. Merriman and her team are honored to be named a NJ Top Dentist of NJ for the past 11 years in a row.