Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 9: Marketing Dental Sleep Medicine 

February 28, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 9: Marketing Dental Sleep Medicine 

By Todd Sander DDS 

How do you start reaching out to physicians and other providers to build a dental sleep medicine practice? Start with the ones you know. Start with your own personal physician and start a conversation. If your dental patient is on CPAP, get permission to converse with their doctor. I spend time contacting many primary care doctors and find they are the ones who know patients are non-compliant with their CPAP therapy. They help me get patients re-evaluated by a sleep specialist. 

This may not be true in your community, but in Charleston, SC, where I practice, many primary care doctors don’t know what to do with their non-compliant CPAP patients. They are thrilled to have someone to refer them to try alternative therapy. 

Years ago, I reached out to sleep testing centers to communicate my services. Both independent sleep labs and hospital-based sleep labs have been great sources of referrals. For many years, I was the dental advisor to a sleep lab. A great conversation starter with sleep physicians, is the potential of combining CPAP and an oral appliance. This often allows the CPAP air pressure to be turned down so their patients be more comfortable and compliant. 

When you screen your dental patients for airway issues such as sleep apnea and snoring, the next step is referring your patients with issues for a sleep study. When the patient discusses their symptoms with their primary care physician or a sleep physician, you are mentioned and often documented as making the referral. Over time, physicians come to know you as a go-to provider of dental sleep appliance therapy. This process is sped up when you take the time and initiative to contact your patient’s primary care physician with your patient’s permission. You can guide physicians and remind them of the recommended standards-of-care, including appliance therapy in place of or in combination with CPAP therapy. 

Some patients self-refer to me, as friends and family talk about their experiences in my office, but I am not spending money on digital advertising to bring in dental sleep medicine patients. Mostly, they are referred to me by physicians, dentists, and other patients.  This is the same for my dental practice. 

As mentioned in a previous part of this series, our hygienists have attended dental sleep medicine courses with me and screen for airway issues. They adeptly educate and guide patients who have signs and symptoms to schedule an examination and consultation with me. 

Note: When patients are referred to me for dental sleep medicine, I never encourage them to become dental patients in our practice. This is a choice they might make but I am extremely careful to refer patients referred by a dentist back to their referring dentist for all dental needs. I am an adjunct to help other dentists’ patients fulfill a prescription for a dental appliance. 

If a patient comes in for sleep-disordered breathing but is also experiencing facial pain or TMD, I understand that this patient’s two issues are likely connected and I will not be able to successfully treat one without treating the other. This is an opportunity to communicate in depth with the referring dentists and let them know I plan to treat the patient for both issues simultaneously. This has been easier for me to do because I have had years of experience in treating facial pain and TMD issues in my dental practice, as well as sleep apnea and snoring. 

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Todd Sander, DMD

Dr. Todd Sander is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Dentistry at Temple University, and a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency with the US Army at Fort Jackson, SC. He completed three years of active duty with the US Army Dental Corps and served in Iraq for 11 months. Dr. Sander completed more than 500 hours of postgraduate training at the Pankey Institute for Advance Dental Education and is one of only three dentists in the Charleston area to hold such a distinction. Dr. Sander is also affiliated with the American Dental Association, South Carolina Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Academy of General Dentistry, and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Areas of special interest include: TMJ disorders; advanced dental technology; cosmetic dentistry; full mouth reconstruction; sleep apnea /snoring therapy; Invisalign orthodontics.

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How I Use Mallampati Scores for Airway Screening

September 17, 2020 Lee Ann Brady DMD

In 2017 the American Dental Association adopted a policy encouraging dentists to screen patients for sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD). This includes assessing a patient’s risk for SRBD as part of a comprehensive medical and dental history and referring affected patients to a physician as appropriate. When this happened, I called my friend Dr. Steve Carstensen, who is at the forefront of sleep dentistry and asked him what we should implement in our dental practice. One of the tools he suggested is a quick and easy visual assessment called a Mallampati score.

The Mallampati score is one of four things we now do in my practice as a four-part sleep screening. (In Dr. Kelly Brummet’s recent PankeyGram article, she wrote about what this score determines and how she uses it in her practice, so you will want to go back and read that article as well this one.)

We have laminated copies of the Mallampati visualization chart (see below), which we printed from the Internet. We used these for visual reference in both of my operatories and the hygienist’s operatory. To make a visual assessment of the back of the patient’s mouth, say to the patient, “Open wide.” You don’t depress the tongue. The patient doesn’t say “aah.” The patient just opens wide. Then you look to see which of the four Mallampati images most closely matches what you see and give the patient a 1 through 4 score based on the image.

This is just a simple way to see if we think anatomically the patient can move air past the base of the tongue. My hygienist and I do this in conjunction with the STOP BANG questionnaire, Epworth Sleepiness Scale and asking about nose breathing.

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Using Mallampati Scores

September 11, 2020 Kelley Brummett DMD

Screening our patients for airway and breathing issues is becoming a standard in dentistry. One of the things we have started to do every day in our Hygiene rooms, with our patients from three years old to very elderly, is visually looking at the back of their mouth and assign a Mallampati score.

The Mallampati score was developed by anaesthesiologist Seshagiri Mallampati, in 1985, as a non-invasive way to assess the ease of endotracheal intubation. The test is simply a visual assessment of the distance between the base of the tongue and the roof of the mouth.

In our practice, we begin a conversation about airway with patients. The Mallampati diagram (see below) allows both us and our patient to visualize, on a score of 1 to 4, the patient’s anatomical airway. We laminated the Mallampati diagram off of Google Images, and we can give it to the patient to hold while we screen them, or we share it with them after screening to let them see why they received the score they did. We then continue the conversation with them about their airway and why it might be a good idea for them to observe sleep patterns or be referred to a sleep physician for further diagnosis.

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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Your Patients Want to Know: Is Sleep Apnea Causing their Morning Headaches?

September 3, 2019 Deborah Bush, MA

You are accustomed to consulting with patients about the association of TMD with craniofacial pain, but the link to sleep disorders should now be on your radar. Your patients want to know that you can help them sort out whether their frequently occurring headaches are the result of TMD, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a combination of the two, and/or other comorbidities.

Because research evidence suggests up to 50% of individuals suffering from morning headaches have OSA, every dentist likely has some sufferers they can detect, educate, diagnose, and refer or treat. If you are not already an expert in Dental Sleep Medicine, The Pankey Institute’s immersive Dental Sleep Medicine course is one of the best in the country.

A preclinical interview that includes questions about headaches will get you started with a co-discovery diagnosis for OSA related headaches and set you and your patient on the path for the most appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment.

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Deborah Bush, MA

Deb Bush is a freelance writer specializing in dentistry and a subject matter expert on the behavioral and technological changes occurring in dentistry. Before becoming a dental-focused freelance writer and analyst, she served as the Communications Manager for The Pankey Institute, the Communications Director and a grant writer for the national Preeclampsia Foundation, and the Content Manager for Patient Prism. She has co-authored and ghost-written books for dental authorities, and she currently writes for multiple dental brands which keeps her thumb on the pulse of trends in the industry.

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