Where is your online content? Add more information now.

Knowing how to write a blog, website content, press releases, educational content and other marketing materials might now seem important. After all, your priority is treating patients, right? While that is correct, you do also need to fulfill marketing efforts to reach those patients. Whether you, a member of your team or a freelance writer works on content marketing for your practice, it is key to establishing your brand. From social media management to blogging and other options, it’s time to get started on developing your online content.

Maintain an up-to-date blog

It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out as a general dentist or you are an established dental sleep medicine practice, it is important to blog on your website as soon as you can. I am aware of how busy you are and how hard it is to juggle multiple projects, but that is why you will need to get a member of your staff or a freelance writer to help. The extra help with writing will eliminate the stress of needing to think of topics to write about in a weekly blog.

So how do you think of topics? It’s actually quite simple, so try not to overthink it. Begin with the services you offer and explain them for your patients. A better understanding of those services is helpful. From there you can dive deeper into topics based on the initial services. And once your writer knows what you want, the easier it will get! The availability of weekly blogs can help to reach your patients while developing trust because you are showing you are an expert in your field.

Hop on social media

While you may already have your own personal Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram, but does your practice? And if your practice is already on social media, are you using it to your advantage? Your writer can keep your social network up-to-date with important information, while also sharing your blog posts each week.

Share important articles, updates on your practice, photos and blog posts so your patients are constantly in-the-know for important information. The number of times you should be posting varies from each network and how often you want your patients to be updated. Try for at least once a week and increase posting with each special message you want to share.

It is important to become an expert in your field, not just at your practice, but online as well. Working with a writer can help you reach your patients and other doctors. It takes the stress off of you and allows you to have creative, up-to-date content for easy access in all areas.

Here’s how to generate physician referrals

Are you ready to get new patients for sleep apnea or craniofacial pain treatment? Now is the time to get your practice noticed. It is important to establish a working relationship with your local physicians. This is essential for generating patient referrals, which are key to keeping your dental sleep medicine and/or craniofacial pain practice alive. To help you with generating physician referrals, here are four things you can do now to establish a strong working relationship.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This step is so important I had to say it three times, “Prepare, prepare and prepare.” When speaking with a physician you only get a short time frame to share what you need to say. To make the most of those short minutes, prepare something to say that won’t take up too much time. Think of an elevator ride. What can you say in that short ride to the fifth or tenth floor?

Think about a couple of bullet points that you want to make sure you hit. These points should be tailored to the physician’s specialty. For example, ENTs will want to know more about how you are offering oral appliances and how these devices can be tried before recommending surgery. If you are talking to a family physician, think about sharing how it may take a long time for patients to get into a sleep clinic for further testing. And if you are speaking with a cardiologist, discuss atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, hypertension or any other sleep apnea comorbidities.

Invite physicians to a lunch and learn

Everyone loves a lunch and learn, right? Think about it. If you can find a convenient time for physicians in your community to pop in for a quick presentation and lunch, they would remember it. This is a chance for you to get to know the other health care providers in your community, while also educating their teams on the benefits of oral appliance therapy for treatment of sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint disorder.

Use this time to answer questions about insurance benefits, how it works and how they can refer. Don’t forget to invite your team too–they are there to mingle and learn as well. And make sure you bring some marketing materials with you to share. This allows the physicians to bring something back with them.

Visit the office

Sometimes you just have to go straight to the source. If you want to reach out, feel free to stop into a physician’s office to drop off marketing materials or have a quick chat with the doctor. This allows you to share important information without completely disrupting their day. You should include the latest American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines that list oral appliance therapy as a successful treatment option. You should also share your services and how you can help their patients too. One way to really catch their eye is to personalize the marketing materials you share with them. Try to include a handwritten note to each physician.

Refer patients back

This relationship goes both ways. If the physician is referring patients to you and you are doing nothing in return, what good will that do? This is a time to establish a strong working relationship and if you are referring patients back to them, it is a win-win for both offices. You want them to feel like the relationship is one of collaboration and that you are caring for patients as a team.

Get Involved in Screening for Dental Sleep Medicine and Craniofacial Pain Services

With the year almost over, we need to re-evaluate our roles and practices. As the remaining months unfold and you begin to think ahead to the new year, let’s look at ways you can continue to improve your practice and the services offered. Think about screening for dental sleep medicine (sleep apnea) and Craniofacial Pain–have you ever thought about these areas?

It is estimated that more than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and 45 million from craniofacial pain. Both sleep apnea and craniofacial pain have been proven to need the expertise of a dentist to help in the screening process. Let’s change our patients’ perceptions on dental care and help them get a better night’s sleep, as well as eliminating pain, by screening for these advanced conditions.

What You Can Do

The first step is to train your staff in what sleep apnea and craniofacial pain are. By informing your staff about signs and symptoms, you can begin to get your office involved in screening. You have several opportunities to identify prospective patients and screening opportunities for advanced diagnosis and care with help from your local dental sleep medicine specialist and sleep physician:

  1. Place educational material, such as posters or brochures, in your waiting room and hygiene rooms. These are great areas for developing verbal dialogue about sleep apnea and craniofacial pain.  
  2. Ask simple questions about their daily health and complications, as well as utilizing the epworth sleepiness scale. These options help in screening.
  3. Every office requires paperwork to be filled out, so why not ask a few extra questions to get the conversation going? Ask about pain, headaches and sleep complications–it only takes a moment.
  4. Review the health questionnaire–it may suggest potential undiagnosed conditions. An example would be a patient with uncontrolled diabetes, A-Fib, GERD, obesity, history of stroke and so on. These conditions may lead you to pushing for your patients to go get diagnosed for a unsuspected SDB.
  5. The exam itself will help you understand signs and symptoms the patient might be having. This is also a great time to create dialogue about the patient’s experience with fatigue, headaches and other complications.

You might have more information then you can digest, but, frankly, we were all once in the same position with information overload. Start by role playing during lunch and understand the flow it will take in screening, discussing, referring and following up with patients that you suspect have sleep apnea, craniofacial pain or other conditions.

Screen each of your patients and, if suspected, refer out for further analysis and diagnosis from an experienced physician. Let’s help our patients overcome further complications with sleep apnea and craniofacial pain by screening each patient and sending out for referral.

Dental sleep medicine: Work with the Medical Community

Sleep Apnea is a medical condition, which means it is important to include a medical professional in the treatment process for dental sleep medicine services. While dentists can treat obstructive sleep apnea, we cannot diagnose it ourselves. What we can do is ask questions and pay attention to symptoms.

Beyond that we need a sleep physician to help us in the diagnosis process through a sleep study. Through a working relationship with a sleep physician, you can send patients for diagnosis while also receiving patients for treatment with oral appliance therapy if they become CPAP intolerant.

The solution is you

At the end of the day, there is an easier solution: You, the dentist. By completing continuing education to advance your services to include sleep apnea care, you can save patients time and money spent on figuring out what might be the problem. Most patients are treated with oral appliance therapy as the leading form of treatment for sleep apnea due to their convenience and ease of use. As a dentist, you can offer your patients oral appliances to ensure accuracy and provide the best results.

Take charge of your practice and help your patients get a better night’s sleep while also improving their overall health and well-being by screening for sleep apnea. At the end of the day, if you’re not saving your patient’s life through sleep apnea screening, then who is?

The future of dental sleep medicine is bright. With numerous opportunities to provide value through improved patient care, your options are endless, so take charge as soon as possible and start screening your patients for sleep apnea.