When you see someone on the Treasure Coast with a spectacular smile, there’s a good chance they’re one of Dr. Michael Sohl’s patients. The dentist, who lives in Jensen Beach, has been practicing in the area since 1981. But modern dentistry has evolved into a truly holistic approach to health care, with a routine cleaning oftentimes providing the first clue to health issues like adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, infection and sleep apnea. In an attempt to provide state-of-the-art care for patients, Michael Sohl’s son, Christopher Sohl, a Jupiter resident, has teamed up with his dad to help provide awareness and treatment for sleep apnea—a life-threatening medical condition up to 80 percent of people don’t even know they have.
What made you decide to go into the field of dentistry?
Michael: My dad was the vice president of a dental supply company, and I remember going to the plant where they manufactured and distributed things, and seeing drawers of dentures. My sister was engaged to a guy in dental school, and there were lots of dentists around when I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio.
Golf seems to be a big part of the Sohl lineage.
Michael: As much of an influence as dentistry was, golf was equally important. My paternal grandmother was Blanche Graham Sohl, one of the best women’s amateur golfers in the northeast. She used to play tournaments all over the country and later taught as a golf-pro at Ohio State University. I played through high school, and my dad, who also loved golf, coordinated all the major golf events in the Columbus area at around the time when Jack Nicklaus was a teen in Ohio, too.
Chris: I worked as a golf pro for a few years at clubs in the area, but that job requires a lot of moving around and being away, and I felt like it was time for me to settle down some, and since I’ve looked up to what my dad has done for so many years, I got into dental practice management in a company specializing in dental sleep medicine… After traveling around the country and listening to lectures on dental sleep medicine, everything just clicked, and I became passionate about helping others feel and live better. That’s why we say that I went from the fairways to the airways.
What does dentistry have to do with sleep medicine?
Chris: When you go for your regular dental cleaning or checkup, your dentist typically does X-rays to see if there are signs of blockage or infection, and most also take your blood pressure to screen for hypertension. Every good medical professional needs to read between the lines to be able to detect other health issues before they become serious, and since sleep issues often lead to systemic problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, it’s important to find out how a patient is sleeping as part of total care. Our goal is to work in conjunction to raise awareness, educate and provide treatment to as many people as possible, especially since 75 to 80 percent of individuals with sleep apnea are undiagnosed. If we detect an issue, we can refer patients to their primary care physician or a specialist.