It’s all about the sleep apnea facts

As dentists, we want to know everything we can about how to treat our patients. And as dental sleep medicine specialists, that means the sleep apnea facts. To help you better understand the needs for providing our patients with sleep apnea treatment, I have compiled some helpful–and interesting–facts.

Here are some sleep apnea facts you can bring back to your team and your patients.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea

Despite having clear signs and symptoms, many patients with obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. The negative effects of not treatment sleep apnea are evident:

  • On average, a patient goes 7 years without proper treatment.
  • During those 7 years, patients visit their family physician about 17 times and subspecialists about 9 times.
  • Undiagnosed sleep apnea causes worsening of symptoms and health conditions.

Health complications exist

Comorbidities of sleep apnea have been shown to include a number of health conditions, including:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Acid Reflux
  • Obesity

Performance, safety and quality of life

Sleep loss and sleep apnea affect an individual’s performance, safety and quality of life – causing a financial burden on healthcare and productivity.

  • Almost 20% of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness.
  • When sleep apnea is not treated, it is far more costly than it would be to deliver adequate treatments.
  • Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on direct medical costs.
  • Compared to healthy individuals, those who suffer from sleep loss and sleep disorders are less productive.
  • Today, most patients do not go under surgery for treatment. Instead, most are treated with an oral appliance as the leading form of sleep apnea treatment due to their convenience and ease of use.
  • The availability of custom-made oral appliances ensures accuracy and the best results.
  • The largest numbers of patients that suffer from sleep apnea are in the mild to moderate categories, which should be treated with oral appliances.
  • Understanding the importance of oral appliance therapy is vital in the treatment of sleep apnea.

Incorporating sleep apnea treatment into your practice, helps improve the services you offer in addition to helping improve your patients’ overall health.

Guidelines for choosing blog post topics

The best part about blogging is that your topics are limitless. This means you can write about just about anything that relates to you, your practice, important events, etc. Be sure to choose what people want to hear. An easy way to determine good topic choices is to think of questions that your patients commonly ask. You can use your blog as a way to answer each of these questions. And your patients can then visit your blog for answers to those questions. Let’s find out more about choosing blog post topics and making it work for you.

Do your research

When choosing blog post topics, search for other blogs in your industry. Look at popular blog posts to get other blog ideas. Viewing what other blogs are posting can help give you a good idea of what your industry likes to talk about and read. Additionally, in the past your blog and press releases were separate areas.

However, blogs can now often be a better choice than releasing a press release. By using your blog for not only educational information, but to announce new procedures, upcoming events and other newsworthy topics, you can complete a well-rounded blog that reaches your patients.

Look forward to blogging

Blogging might feel forced at first, but over time you may begin to look forward to blogging and may even leave yourself notes as you think of new topics to share with your patients. Blogging is fun and can significantly improve your web presence and credibility, so start now! You will find that the rewards of blogging are worth that extra effort.

Remain active online

I owe my success to active blogging. You might be thinking to yourself, “But Dr. Patel, you are always on the road or helping patients. Where do you find the time?”  An active and up-to-date blog takes a lot of work, but it shows that you are an expert in Dental Sleep Medicine and other areas of dentistry. While I understand how you may not have enough time due to your busy schedule, I personally utilize a freelance blogger, Sara Berg. Through her efforts and help I have been able to maintain an active, engaging blog for my patients and other dentists.

I highly encourage you to do the same in order to maintain an educational blog for your practice! If you are blogging, how do you choose your blog post topics? I’d love to learn how you make it work too!

Reintroducing the dental team for sleep apnea care

We have discussed this in the past, but I think it is time to bring this back to the surface. It is time to reintroduce the dental team for sleep apnea care! When it comes to providing your patients with dental sleep medicine services, it is important to understand that this isn’t a one person job. It requires a team-based care approach, which means every dental team member plays a role in sleep apnea care.

Dentist you play a vital role in dental sleep medicine, but each member of your dental team also needs to evolve with the new roles and responsibilities to help patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  From the receptionist and billing coordinator to the hygienist and dental assistant, the office plays an integral role in the screening and managing for potential patients who might not know they suffer from OSA.

Let’s take a look at the dental team for sleep apnea care and each person’s role at your dental office:  

The front office

The first member of the dental team for sleep apnea care is the front office staff. This is the face of your office because they are the ones who greet your patients at every visit. There are two pathways for patients: One is identifying a patient in the dental office and sending out for a diagnosis, while the other is referred in from a sleep doctor or advertising efforts. Remember, if they come to the dentist for services, then an order from a physician is required before oral appliance fabrication can be completed. Due to this, the front office holds an important role and must fax a request or educate the patient of the need for a referral from a sleep physician. Beginning with the initial phone call, the front office team will ask patients that are referred to the office to bring a copy of their sleep study, medical insurance information and any other important information needed.

The billing coordinator

Once a patient is a candidate for oral appliance therapy, verification and, in some cases, predetermination is initiated to determine benefits of coverage for treatment. This is where the billing coordinator steps in. The billing coordinator is essential in the treatment process to ensure every patient receives the appropriate benefits they deserve as determined by their insurance. By obtaining proper training , the billing coordinator can establish proper referral, communication and medical billing protocols—more than just completing and sending claims.

The hygienist

Hygienists are looking for and eradicating periodontal diseases, while improving their patients’ overall oral health. At the same time, hygienists perform an array of other dental duties, including looking for cavities, oral health education and screening for oral cancer. As the first person your patients meet once in the dental chair, hygienists offer recommendations based on a patient’s individual needs, which might include advice on screening to rule out a sleep breathing issue.

While obstructive sleep apnea is not the first thing that comes to mind when visiting the dentist, the area of dental sleep medicine continues to advance. Initial screenings might identify patients that snore, feel tired all the time or know someone who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, yet never sought treatment. By screening and asking questions, dental hygienists will bring their findings to the dentist for further discussion—creating an opportunity for treatment and the possibility of a referral to a sleep physician.

The dental assistant

Working closely with the dentist is the dental assistant. The role of the dental assistant is just as important as the dentist. In this role, you will help the dentist by charting his findings, getting impressions and assisting in capturing the bite–this is the starting position for the oral appliance. Once the oral appliance is delivered to the office, the dental assistant will fit the device or assist the dentist in fitting the appliance, providing instruction, and informing patients on when and how to wear it.

The dentist

This is the main person on the dental team for sleep apnea care. As the dentist you have two roles in dental sleep medicine. After examination, to discuss with the patient that they may have a condition that needs to be tested; and determining if a patient is a candidate for oral appliance therapy. With two roles, dentists’ will either be recommending that patients visit a sleep doctor for diagnosis or treatment be based on a referral from a medical doctor, which is where the front office staff comes into play. If a patient is a candidate for oral appliance therapy, then the dentist will educate each patient on oral appliance therapy.

Each member of the dental team plays a vital role in implementing Dental Sleep Medicine. From the dentist to the front office staff, it is important to understand and execute your new roles when providing dental sleep medicine services for patients. With the unique opportunity to diagnose and treat sleep apnea, dentists should consider continuing education not only for themselves, but their entire dental staff as well.

You can take the next step toward healthy, happy patients be educating them on the different roles in dental sleep medicine.

New year, new web presence: Why blogging is important

With every new year comes new resolutions to make and keep. For 2019, I have something different for you to consider adding to the top of your list of resolutions: blogging. It doesn’t seem like something you should be worried about. However, blogging is important. As a dentist, blogging is a great resource to reach your patients. When patients see that you care, they care too. Start blogging today to share important health information. Here is why blogging is important and can help improve your practice’s patient panel.

It improves your web presence

A main reason why blogging is important is it contributes to your improved online presence. Updating your blog regularly helps your potential and established patients find you. It is also just as important for them to relate to you.

Blogging increases the chances your business will be found. But how does that happen? It happens because each new blog post you and your team writes creates a new indexable page. Not to mention, well-written and informative blog posts attract inbound links, giving your website a higher rank on search engines – this is where SEO improves.

It increases your credibility

Not only will you gain better visibility, but you can also gain increased credibility. If you consistently write content that is creative, helpful and relevant to your readers, you will start to be known as a “thought leader.” In other words, you will be someone who is viewed as an authority in their field, which helps you to earn trust as you work to convert blog readers into patients.

The availability of a blog helps you to create a trustworthy reputation with your patients. The more you update your blog and include important dental information, the more your patients will begin to trust you and go to you for all of their dental information needs. Active blogging helps you to establish yourself and your practice as an expert in your field – whether it is general dentistry, dental sleep medicine, or other topics of interest.

Prospective and established patients want to feel connected to you as their provider and to your entire practice. The more connected they feel, the more inclined they are to seek your advice. By blogging, you continue to serve your patients’ dental care needs outside of the office – your care doesn’t stop when the patient leaves your office.