Avoid Practicing Sleep Medicine, Unless…

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I can’t count the number of dentists I know who, in mid-career crisis mode, go to a conference and hear about Dental Sleep Medicine (DSM) and think, “Ah-ha, finally! I have a path out of wet-finger dentistry! I can’t do another 15 years of general dentistry. Count me in!” They spend a ton of time and money on training, boards, scanners, software, etc… and three years later throw in the towel. The investment is just not worth the return.

That is a shame for several reasons:

As our population ages, there is a critical need in North Texas to address sleep apnea. You can be of great service to your patients and community (full disclosure, I have sleep apnea and my oral appliance changed my life!).

You can make good money; the average oral appliance sells for roughly $3,000.

It’s a wonderful transition out of wet-finger dentistry.

So why do so many North Texas dentists fail in their attempt at DSM?

1. Dentists are hard-wired to be ‘All In’.
Who else locks in their entire career path at 19? Dentists study some form of life sciences in undergrad, apply to dental school (spend a lot of time and a boatload of money), then have to invest in real estate, run a business, make payroll, establish a client base, etc. All before their mid-30s. Y’all are hardwired to be All In.

Here’s the challenge, most dentists can’t afford to stop seeing their general dentistry patients for two years and focus solely on DSM. The economics of ‘All In’ just don’t work with DSM. The first year, you have to be three-fourth’s into your GP and one fourth into DSM. The second year maybe two-thirds in the GP and one third in DSM. And so on, until you can be All In in DSM. That’s a hard mental transition for many doctors.

2. We’ve been trained to have a dentist since 1st grade.
When a patient has a toothache or needs a cleaning, they know where to go. However, someone with sleep apnea has to be 1) aware they have it, 2) willing to do something about it and 3) learn that DSM is an option over a CPAP. So dentists getting into DSM have to educate and advertise. For doctors who built their GP without advertising, this is also a mental shift.

If you’re seeking a profitable transition out of general dentistry (or adding DSM to your GP), know that you can provide a critically needed service to your patients and community (improve and extend the lives of people like me). Also know that it will require a different approach than how many dentists built their successful general practices.

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