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.

Attend these dental sleep medicine, pain lectures before summer

Before you know it, summer will be here. While there are dental sleep medicine and craniofacial pain lectures all year long, we have some you might want to join before summer begins. I understand that summer is the time to travel and explore with your family. But why not get a few lectures in under your belt before jet setting across the world?

To help you get a better idea of what lectures are out there, I have put together a few for you to explore before June. Here they are:

March 29, 2019

Topic: Sleep disordered breathing and orofacial pain

Location: Chicago, IL

 

April 5-6, 2019

Topic: UNC Dental Sleep Mini Residency Session 3.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

 

April 26-27, 2019

Topic: The Appliance Course for Dental Sleep Medicine & TMD.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia. 

 

May 10-11, 2019

Topic: TMJ for the dental sleep practice & Injections/Botox.

Location: New York, New York.

 

May 17-18, 2019

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency 3 Session 2.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia.

 

I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming lecture! Please let me know if you have any questions about these dental sleep medicine and craniofacial pain lectures. See you soon!

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.