Make Continuing Education Part of Your New Year Resolution

It’s that time of year again. As the holidays have ended, you might be thinking about your New Year’s Resolution. For 2015, take charge of your practice and make a resolution to provide improved care and services. By expanding your practice to properly treat patients with sleep apnea or TMD, you can significantly improve your patients’ oral and overall health.

Take a Class

In 2015 you will have the availability of fresh, new classes and lectures you can attend for Dental Sleep Medicine. Beginning in January, you can visit Nierman Practice Management, where Dr. Patel is the Clinical Education Director, for an up-to-date schedule of continuing education courses. By completing continuing education courses, you can offer your patients further services and resources to better meet their individual needs. And, not only can you attend continuing education courses, but your entire staff can as well!

Provide Educational Material

Another area of your resolution to improve your practice can be patient education material. By helping your patients better understand sleep apnea, TMD or any other area you can ensure they can take care of themselves after leaving your office. You can improve educational information by providing brochures/pamphlets, and properly answering a patient’s questions while in the office. When you provide your patients with exceptional educational information, you can continue to help them long after they leave your office.

Take a stand in 2015 and improve your practice by not only attending continuing education courses, but also by providing appropriate educational information for your patients. Make your resolution for 2015 one that will not only help your office, but your patients, as well.

Give Your Patients the Gift of a Better Night’s Sleep

Let’s face it, snoring is not attractive, nor is it fun. When a person or their partner snores, it can significantly interrupt their night’s sleep, causing tense relationships. To help your patients give the gift of a better night’s sleep, it is important for your dental office to begin continuing education in the area of dental sleep medicine. Currently, it has been shown that 40% of the American population snores while as many as 16% has diagnosable sleep apnea. With more than 80% of sleep breathing disorders going undiagnosed, your practice can take the next step toward helping your patients and their family members get a better night’s sleep.

What to do

The first thing you should do is to educate yourself on the practice and particulars of dental sleep medicine today. By taking an introductory course on Dental Sleep Medicine you can get a robust introduction to the field of dental sleep medicine. There are several organizations that offer courses and annual meetings to meet the continuing education needs for integrating dental sleep medicine into your practice.

Next, it is important to create a relationship with your local sleep physician. While this may be out of your comfort zone, it is an essential part of gaining the resources you need to give your patients the gift of a better night’s sleep. Sleep physicians are the medical providers who diagnose sleep-disordered breathing and are responsible for the overall care of the patient. As an effective and successful dentist, you will work very closely with your patients’ sleep physician to provide optimal care.

Begin Now

Within your dental practice you can begin to integrate dental sleep therapies. You can do this by creating sleep-focused conversations with your patients. This can be as simple as adding a question to your hygienist’s initial consultation with the patient, such as Do you, or anyone in your family, snore? By adding this simple question, you can help uncover a large population that is in need of care and may not even realize it.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is heritable and can often be found in children of snoring parents, so taking charge now is important in their overall health. Asking a simple question at a patient’s appointment can be all you need to offer a successful treatment plan so they can get a better night’s sleep! Your patients’ families will be thanking you for this gift that keeps on giving!

The Hygienist’s Role in Dental Sleep Medicine

As a dental hygienist, you can save lives, too! Hygienists are typically concerned with looking for and eradicating periodontal disease, and improving their patients’ overall oral health. At the same time, hygienists are looking for cavities, screening for oral cancer, treating periodontal infections, and motivating patients to improve their oral health at home. Dental hygienists also educate patients on the links between periodontal disease and heart attacks, diabetes, and low birth-weight babies. As the first person your patients meet, hygienists offer recommendations based on a patient’s individual needs, which might include advice on sleep.

Sleep Apnea and Hygienists

When going to the dentist, the topic of sleep apnea is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, the area of dental sleep medicine continues to advance each year. Once a dental hygienist has received the proper education, training and CE certification in sleep apnea it is impossible to ignore the signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly condition. Initial screenings reveal that many of your patients might snore, feel tired all the time or knew someone who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but had never sought treatment.

Educate Your Patients

In addition to educating your patients on oral diseases and complications, it is important to also educate them on the dangers of sleep apnea and what treatment options are available. Through the knowledge of sleep apnea, patients can become better informed of this potentially deadly disease before it worsens.

As a hygienist you can educate your patients on what sleep apnea is, as well as oral appliances. Explain to your patients how an oral appliance works and how it would be custom-made specifically for their individual needs so they can sleep with an unobstructed airway.

Incorporating dental sleep medicine into your practice is important. It is also extremely beneficial to make sure your dental hygienists receive the education they need to properly identify a problem, as well as establishing and maintaining an effective treatment plan.

Treating sleep apnea in the dental office helps to increase the quality of your patients’ lives. With the help of your hygienists, your patients will sleep better, wake up well rested, and their bed partners will thank you, too! Contact Dr. Mayoor Patel for more information on how your hygienists can also receive the educational training they need to accomplish to help them in identifying and treating sleep apnea in patients.

Working with a Sleep Physician

Another important relationship to hold and maintain is with a sleep physician. Sleep medicine in the dental office provides knowledge and understanding of sleep physiology and the life-threatening consequences of sleep-disordered breathing. Many at-risk patients are candidates for oral appliance therapy, and many patients who are suffering from sleep apnea can be treated by your dental practice working in an interdisciplinary relationship with a sleep physician.

The Sleep Physician’s Role

While you can provide your patients with oral appliance therapy, it is important to be aware that the first step in treatment is diagnosis. In order to properly diagnose your patients, a sleep physician is needed. A sleep physician is available to provide proper diagnosis of sleep apnea in patients. For this reason, it is important to establish a relationship with your local sleep physician. With each patient that displays signs of a sleep breathing disorder, you can send them to your local sleep physician for referral. Through a visit with the sleep physician, your patient will be monitored, tested and diagnosed. From there you can treat your patient with oral appliance therapy when appropriate.

Create a Bond

First, it is important to introduce your dental sleep medicine practice to your local sleep physician. This allows your local sleep physician to be aware of the services you provide, which helps in building a relationship for proper diagnosis and treatment planning. To create this working relationship, it is important that you give physicians and their staff confidence that your practice will provide exceptional care for their patients by speaking their language and sending standard medical SOAP format narratives that document your patients’ treatment—it demonstrates to physicians that your practice has established proper protocols.

Introducing yourself to your local sleep physician is a good way to establish a solid relationship because you are informing them that you are screening your dental patients for sleep apnea, and will be referring to them for an evaluation and diagnosis. The sleep physician will also play a large role in a follow-up sleep study after a patient has begun oral appliance therapy. Your local sleep physician will help to make sure the treatment is working, or provide treatment adjustments as needed.

Contact Dr. Mayoor Patel for more information on how you can establish a proper relationship with your local sleep physician and why it is so important for treating your patients.