I try not to think about how long I’ve been involved in the dental industry because I’d like to believe I’m not old enough for the numbers to add up that way, but it has been a long, long time. I consider myself very lucky because when I started as an Orthodontic Technician I had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, some of the best in the business; true pioneers in orthodontics. And I again consider myself lucky. Now, almost 30 years after opening my lab, my industry is booming and I’m working with doctors who are pioneers in Dental Sleep Medicine. Throughout my entire career, I have always managed to surround myself with experts and I know that it has really played a major role in my success and helped me become an expert in my own discipline.
There’s a famous Bob Dylan quote, “Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.” As I speak with dentists who are just getting into sleep apnea treatment, one of the best pieces of advice I can give them is just that. Find an expert and do what they do, get the education they got, work with the companies they work with.
While I’ll admit that this advice is somewhat self-serving for me and my sleep appliance lab, it doesn’t make it any less true. You might think that the dentists who are having great success in treating sleep apnea would be reluctant to share their secrets with others, but the good guys understand that helping others to do it right helps our industry as a whole. There are a few things that all the experts do that a new dentist (or an old dentist who’s new to sleep apnea) can do as well. If you want to put yourself on the path to becoming an expert too, here are my recommendations:
Education is Key
Education is what separates a dentist who treats sleep apnea from a dentist who is a sleep apnea expert. It seems like there are countless opportunities to take a sleep apnea class, and I haven’t been to a dental convention in the last few years that didn’t have at least one. In addition, there are a handful of major players in sleep apnea training, and I really like the work that the American Sleep and Breathing Academy is doing for dental sleep medicine. The reason I recommend the ASBA in lieu of other groups is because they really embrace a multidisciplinary approach. They are not only educating dentists, they also work with medical doctors, nurses and PAs, sleep technicians, RTs, sleep diagnostic facilities, and of course, sleep appliance labs like mine. They have online education available and put on a number of education events throughout the year. Put their 2014 Dental Division meeting on your schedule May 1st to 3rd, 2014 in Scottsdale AZ, and look into joining at www.AmericanSleepAndBreathingAcademy.com
Testing Your Patients
A big hurdle for a dentist treating OSA is the sleep study. There are companies that will happily sell a dentist sleep testing equipment at a pretty substantial cost, and without telling them that
it may cause problems for them when it comes to insurance approving the Oral Appliance. Working with a local sleep diagnostic lab is always good, but it can be difficult to get the patient back
because the lab my send the patient home with a CPAP machine. Personally, I really like working with the team at Sleep Services. They are a national home sleep testing lab and they’ve been in the business almost as long as I have. When I first met with them, I was more than a little skeptical because I’ve had less than stellar experiences with other sleep testing folks in the past, but they really deliver in what they say they’ll do. They have helped a lot of the dentists I’ve referred to them manage a difficult part of their sleep apnea program, and they can also help with billing medical insurance, which is an invaluable service for many dentists who struggle to do it on their own. Call them at (888) 322-7108 or find them online at www.HSTSleepServices.com
I’ll be honest and say that I’m just not the right person to give a fair and balanced review of any appliance lab. I know my team does a great job, and I’ll leave it at that. However, when it comes
to choosing the right appliance for your patient, I can offer some insight there. It’s a great thing to see so many sleep appliances becoming FDA/Medicare/Insurance approved and it speaks volumes about the future of our industry. I get asked by dentists all the time which appliance is the best one to use. The answer is, you have to use a variety. There is no magic appliance that is perfect for everyone, but the Herbst is probably the best place to start. It’s a tough appliance and it doesn’t have any wings, fins or tabs that are at risk of breaking off. It also allows some lateral movement to minimize TMJ issues, especially in bruxers. See the Herbst and other appliance options on my website www.GergensOrtho.com or call my team at 866-437-4361.