I recently returned from the America Sleep and Breathing Association’s (ASBA) annual Sleep and Wellness Conference in Phoenix, AZ. I was honored to be a speaker on Reaching, Educating and Treating More Sleep Apnea Patients.
It is exciting to see the growth in dental sleep medicine. It means that more folks like me, who suffer from sleep apnea but do not want to use a CPAP, are getting treatment. It means more lives are extended and the quality of lives are improved. However, the challenges in the space are daunting; regulation, staffing, billing, testing, and awareness.
Growing a sleep practice is different from growing a general practice. Dental practice growth typically comes organically. A doctor buys a practice or puts out a sign in a growing area, and over time, the schedule books up. Everyone knows they need a dentist, right? It’s just a matter of the general population finding one they like.
For sleep apnea, the challengers are broader. For example:
- A patient has to recognize they have sleep apnea.
- They have to be willing to be treated.
- You have to inform them that an oral appliance is an option.
- They need to have a sleep test.
- Often they have to be a “CPAP fail”.
- After all that, they have to play the insurance coverage/reimbursement game.
And then finally, hopefully, they get relief – a solid night’s sleep and more energy in their days.
Compare that to a standard filling:
- The patient’s tooth hurts, so they make an appointment.
- You treat them.
- Insurance covers the bulk of it. End of story.
Adding to the challenge of dental sleep medicine, post-COVID, patients are expecting a lot more information online before they head to the dentist, especially for a big “out-of-pocket” procedure.
All that to say, it is always a joy to educate dentists on how to reach, educate, and ultimately treat more folks like me.
If you’d like for me to speak at an event you attend, please let me know! I’m passionate about spreading the word and helping doctors reach more patients.