The Dental Practitioner’s Role
• Recognize oral signs and symptoms
• Identify and screen patients who snore or may suffer from OSA
• Educate patients on potential sleep-disordered breathing issues
• Promote potential patients to be tested (PSG/HST)
• Provide alternate treatment to CPAP and surgery
• Selection, fitting adjustments, and follow-up care of SomnoDent oral devices
• Be a part of the treatment team along with physicians, dedicated to improving the patient’s quality of life through better sleep
The first thing interested dentists should do is educate themselves and their staff on the practice and particulars of dental sleep medicine today. We recommend starting with our SomnoMed Academy training pages. It is important that your entire dental team is on-boarded and trained in OSA treatment from screening to medical billing to sleep testing.
To ensure your staff and your practice is successful throughout the entire OSA treatment process, be a firm believer in confidently and repeatedly sharing the “why” behind what you do with your team. Do not just declare that your practice is going to “do” sleep appliances, then expect everyone to be on board. Instead, educate the team on how exciting this field is and how much real impact they can have on their patient’s lives.
The best way to address your patient’s concerns confidently and accurately regarding comfort and fit of any SomnoDent oral device is to wear one for yourself. The first-hand knowledge obtained in wearing a SomnoDent, will help you overcome your concerns, answer your patient’s questions with confidence, and strengthen the trust between you and your patients.
Connect with Physicians
Sleep physicians want to work with dentists who are educated about OSA and who understand the value of teamwork – both inside and outside their practice. Some physicians struggle to find a local dentist who is qualified in the comprehensive treatment of OSA. To be a successful dental sleep medicine practitioner, you must network and ensure that your skills are known within the medical community. Ultimately – for the best medical interests of patients – the dental sleep medicine model relies on a collaborative, referral-based relationship between a sleep physician and a dentist. This relationship involves collaboration from the start, so that patients understand the process for diagnosis, treatment options, and the roles of their care providers.
As a dentist, you can screen patients for OSA but are unable to diagnose. The diagnosis must come from a board-certified physician. Additionally, a physician is unable to fabricate, titrate and fit a patient with an oral appliance. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a strong physician partnership.
Dentists who file and accept medical insurance claims including Medicare are preferred by physicians. Not accepting medical insurance can deter physicians from sending referrals.
As more physicians become aware of your knowledge, resources, and collaborative efforts, it will become easier to initiate and persuade them to send new referrals to your practice. However, once you foster more referrals from physicians you will have to ensure that your staff is properly trained for sleep protocols within your dental practice.
Screen your Patients
Within your dental practice, dental teams can begin to integrate dental sleep therapies by starting sleep-focused conversations with patients. It is amazing that adding the question, “Do you, or anyone in your family, snore?” to the standard medical questionnaire can help uncover a huge population in need of care. Asking a simple question can open the door to this rapidly growing field.
The best way to find your undiagnosed patients is by conducting a survey of your patient base by providing an OSA screening tool such as the STOP Bang or Epworth Sleepiness surveys.
Screening your dental patients for sleep apnea on a consistent basis is the primary starting point but it is a task that you and your entire office have to be on the same page about, especially when it comes to building a base of potential patients. From our experience, we have seen the best results from practices who have trained their staff, gained personal experience by having a device of their own and by screening each patient that comes into their practice.
Hygienists have an extremely important role in the dental sleep practice. Being that they are responsible for performing a review of the patient’s medical and dental history at each appointment, they are provided with an ample opportunity to screen them for sleep apnea. The screening can be as simple as reviewing questions like:
If the patient answers “yes” to any of these questions, the hygienist would further investigate and then make the dentist aware of any findings that may indicate the need for a sleep study or oral appliance therapy.
Proceed with an anatomical screening – physical traits in the oral cavity contributing to an OSA diagnosis. Click here for a Dental Sleep Screening Tool.
If you have a patient who is skeptical of oral appliance therapy or is not able to invest in treatment quite yet, consider using the SomnoDent Alpha. The SomnoDent Alpha is a transitional, 90-day appliance that allows your patient to begin sleeping better immediately. The Alpha can be introduced and delivered during a routine exam before your patient receives a custom-made SomnoDent oral appliance and only takes 15 minutes to be fitted by a trained healthcare professional.
Advertising is a powerful way to get patients to know that you offer sleep apnea oral appliances.
Contact your Account Manager to receive demos for your practice.
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