The Pre-Clinical Interview – Part 2 

March 11, 2024 Laura Harkin

Laura Harkin, DMD, MAGD 

Let’s delve deeper into the preclinical interview! 

It’s helpful to understand a patient’s perception of their overall health and oral health, as well as what type of restorative dentistry they’re hoping to have and why they feel the way they currently do.  

Sometimes, an integral family member has influenced the timing of care. For instance, you may hear, “My grandchildren are making fun of my teeth” or “My wife asked me to get my teeth fixed.” From this response, I know that I will need to be sure my patient personally desires treatment before rendering it. I’m also anxious to understand what type of restorative dentistry a patient is considering. For example, are they open to removable prosthetics, fixed crown and bridgework, or implantology? 

Recently a new patient came to my office with an emergency. Tooth #5 presented with the buccal wall broken to the gumline and a moderate-sized, retained, amalgam filling. He immediately said, “I do not want bridgework.” I listened quietly until he elaborated by saying, “When I had this front tooth replaced by my other dentist, I had to take it in and out, and I just found that so irritating.”  

I finally understood that he was referring to a flipper but calling it bridgework. So, it’s important to listen and ask questions when someone seems close-minded about having a certain modality of treatment. Delve deeper into the conversation because it may simply be confusion surrounding dental terminology. 

For the grandparents who ask for a better smile, I’d like to understand their thoughts on the scope of treatment and their expectations. Are they looking for a white, straight, Hollywood smile or a more natural appearance with a little bit of play in the lateral incisors? Are they mainly concerned about stains, gaps, or a missing tooth? Are there other problems they’re aware of such as tooth sensitivity, inflamed gums, or the need for a crown? This input is very important as we continue conversation with co-discovery throughout the clinical exam, diagnostic records, and treatment planning phase. 

Learn to count on your chairside for pertinent information. 

I’m fortunate to always have my assistant, Cindy, beside me for preclinical conversations, comprehensive examinations, and restorative procedures. Sometimes, Cindy interprets a patient’s statement or component of conversation differently than me. She may hear a message that I missed or read body language of which I wasn’t aware. Sometimes, auxiliary conversations between patient and assistant take place after I’ve left the room to complete a hygiene check.  

At the end of the day or in the morning huddle, we always take time to discuss interactions with our patients. Together as a team, we’re more efficient at acquiring accurate information so that we may approach the road to health most effectively for each individual. 

Determine if trust is present. 

As I’m getting to know a patient and before I choose to begin restorative treatment, I seek to understand if trust is present in our doctor/patient relationship. New patients often share past dental experiences, and, unfortunately, some have lost trust in dentistry itself. This may be warranted due to improper care, but it may also be due to a lack of understanding or unclarified expectations regarding a given procedure or material choice.  

It’s not unusual, particularly when a patient is considering a large scope of treatment, to serve as a second or third opinion. Building trust and waiting to be asked for our skills are key necessities before moving forward in irreversible therapy.  

The comprehensive examination, periodontal therapy, splint therapy, and gathering of records are all appointments during which opportunities exist to get to know our patients. True trust often takes time to establish, but the reward reaped is frequently one of empathy, friendship, and the ability to do our best work. 

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Mastering Treatment Planning

DATE: October 2 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 4 2025 @ 1:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

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 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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Laura Harkin

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Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 7: Team Investment

February 12, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 7: Team Investment 

By Todd Sander DMD 

If a dentist wants to provide dental sleep medicine within a restorative practice, everyone needs to be on the same page when making room on the schedule for sleep patients. It would be best to have a couple of champions on your team to support you in your efforts. 

The first champion you need is a sleep patient coordinator who has excellent phone skills and a high interest in what you want to achieve. This team member needs a working knowledge of sleep medicine and to be able to talk with patients about dental sleep medicine over the phone. Ideally, this team member has excellent phone skills and cares about sleep-related breathing disorders and pulmonary issues.  

If another receptionist receives a sleep dental medicine inquiry, our protocol is to take a message and have our sleep patient coordinator call the prospective new patient right back. This has worked well in our practice with a high rate of conversion. 

The second champion you need is a motivated clinical assistant. Hygienists and expanded-function dental assistants make phenomenal sleep assistants because they are driven to learn and do new things. In Parts 3 and 4 of this series, I described tasks my clinical assistant typically performs, so I can best use my time with the patient. For many years, one of our hygienists who had a passion for dental sleep medicine worked with me in developing the sleep side of the practice and was my clinical assistant with sleep patients. In our practice, her role was half traditional hygiene and half sleep dental medicine. 

For years, I have taken our entire staff to sleep courses, even team members who are not helping a lot with dental sleep medicine. I want my team to understand why I am developing the dental sleep medicine practice inside my restorative practice, how they can support it best, and receive formal training to pitch in when needed.  

Don’t forget to invest in yourself because you are the key team member. Today, there are several good sleep dental medicine courses, including at The Pankey Institute. The Pankey Institute courses and its dental sleep medicine study club are excellent.  

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TMD patients present with a wide range of concerns and symptoms from tension headaches and muscle challenges to significant joint inflammation and breakdown. Accurate thorough diagnosis is the first step…

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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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Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 6: The Question of Software

February 9, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 6: The Question of Software 

By Todd Sander DMD 

Numerous companies offer software solutions for dental sleep medicine that integrate with billing services. These companies can take over the paperwork and billing for medical insurance. Some of them have letter templates built into them.  

I look at software all the time, and when I do, I evaluate the efficiency we would gain versus the number of appliances I would need to deliver to make using the software worthwhile. Their billing service fees are high. Currently, I average 10-15 dental sleep medicine patients per quarter and not all of these are candidates for oral appliance therapy. Remember, I have a busy restorative practice. Colleagues who practice full-time dental sleep medicine may see this number in a week! 

I’ve been fortunate to have team members who don’t mind researching how to file medical insurance claims for appliances. Most of my colleagues use a software platform designed for dental sleep medicine. So far, I have chosen not to use one. Instead, I have assigned the duties to team members and they have taken dental sleep medicine, Eaglesoft, and medical billing courses. Currently, we have customized template forms and letters in our Eaglesoft system but it is not set up for filing medical claims.  I must admit, it is getting harder to do this. and I may be forced to decide about dedicated software soon. However, the decision will be made considering financial feasibility as a primary concern. 

It did take time to develop our template forms and letters in Eaglesoft but now we are highly efficient. I dictate the notes for our records, the SOAP note for medical insurance, and the information we want to share in letters with physicians. In addition to the cost savings, I like that I am recording the data I want in my documentation in a structure I want for how I practice—not just for the SOAP note and representing my findings to referring physicians. 

One of my mentors has me considering the possibility that I might want to separate my dental sleep medicine patients’ charting from my dental patients’ charting. Using software designed for the practice of dental sleep medicine would give me a clean way to segregate the patients on my computers. So far, I’ve decided that the expense of the software will not give me a return on my investment. 

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TMD patients present with a wide range of concerns and symptoms from tension headaches and muscle challenges to significant joint inflammation and breakdown. Accurate thorough diagnosis is the first step…

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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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Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 5: Selecting Appliances

January 31, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 5: Selecting Appliances 

By Todd Sander DMD 

This article is written for dentists who are thinking about or just starting a dental sleep medicine practice. I do both restorative dentistry and dental sleep medicine, and by sharing what I do, I hope to help others with their planning. 

There are many other types of appliances you can consider and I am always looking at them. But to become most efficient, I have narrowed down the types of appliances I deliver. Most commonly, these are Dorsal and Herbst appliances. Both are titratable, as the patient needs more advancement over time. 

The dorsal appliance resembles a custom-fitted mouthguard, worn only during sleep. It uses advancement blocks with an orthodontic screw to advance the jaw. There are many manufacturers, and it is easy to deliver. It doesn’t impinge on the tongue, so patients find it comfortable. It is fairly durable and repairable, especially if milled out of acrylic. This is my go-to type of appliance for most patients because patients respond favorably to them. 

A Herbst appliance is more durable for parafunctional patients and fairly comfortable. Patients are sometimes intimidated when they first look at this type of appliance but I always point out that the advancement bars are in the dead space of the cheeks, and they won’t feel them. There are many types of Herbst appliances with different types of advancement arms. 

I sometimes deliver an EMA appliance or a TAP 3 appliance. I have found that the screw and bar assembly of TAP appliances can impinge the tongue a little. My preference is to use appliances that provide more room for the tongue to move forward. Milling and 3D printing have introduced many low-profile, stable, and comfortable appliances that deserve investigation.  

Whatever appliance you decide to use, become knowledgeable and proficient with it. You want to convey confidence to your patients. The more they trust in the appliance, the more compliant they will be with wearing it and the sooner they can achieve improvement of their sleep breathing issues. Oftentimes, they will feel better within a week or two and report this during their first recall visit. When they report improved symptoms, we can move on to confirming the treatment position with a home sleep monitor and refer them back to their physician. Treatment position can also be confirmed prior to appliance fabrication by using a MyTAP temporary appliance.  This can improve the initial treatment position and is necessary for non-titratable appliances. 

With most patients, we take two steps forward and one step back as we titrate an appliance to an effective treatment position. Sometimes I need to send an appliance back, so I’ve become used to taking a bite registration myself and sending it to the lab to reset the appliance in a more forward position.  Using a MyTAP to determine treatment position ahead of time helps prevent this. We prepare our patients for this possibility and provide encouragement to stay on course. Working as a team with our patients, we will get there! 

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Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

TMD patients present with a wide range of concerns and symptoms from tension headaches and muscle challenges to significant joint inflammation and breakdown. Accurate thorough diagnosis is the first step…

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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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Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 4: Treatment Monitoring

January 26, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 4: Treatment Monitoring 

By Todd Sander DMD 

One week after a dental sleep medicine patient is given their appliance I have them return for a follow-up appointment with my clinical assistant. During this appointment, we want to determine if the patient is having any issues. It takes a little time for patients to become accustomed to wearing their appliance and most patients have questions, so this appointment is a time to reassure them and reinforce instructions for advancement if the patient has a titratable appliance. After one week, many start to experience the benefits of 50 to 60% advancement. 

We bring them back again at four to six weeks, at which time, we review their medical history and see if there have been changes. We also evaluate their compliance. We have a sleep log for patients to fill out every morning after they wake. We ask them to make notes about the quality of their sleep. We also have a report form for the patient’s bed partner if the patient has one to make note of the patient’s sleep quality. Believe it or not, spouses/bed partners are accurate 80% of the time when compared with sleep monitors. My clinical assistant reviews the sleep logs and medical history, performs a preliminary appliance check, and lets me know the highlights. Then I come in and perform a thorough examination and lead a discussion to determine how well the patient is adapting to the appliance. 

If the patient is doing well with compliance and feels the therapeutic value of the appliance is adequate, I might decide to skip the eight to ten-week appointment and go straight to confirmation of resolution of symptoms with some sort of monitor. If the patient is not doing well or cannot advance comfortably, then we work out a plan. It is important to note that there are many effective appliances that are non-titratable and fabricated in a fixed position. With these appliances, I work out the titration to the treatment position in My TAP following a similar protocol before prescribing a treatment position in a final appliance. 

Note that we often see issues that cross over into the area of facial pain and temporomandibular joint problems. Many patients doing sleep appliance therapy have these problems, so if you want to do sleep dental medicine, be prepared to also manage your patients through facial pain and TMD issues as you titrate their appliances. 

Usually, in eight to ten weeks, we have successfully taught our patients to self-titrate the appliance to a comfortable treatment position, and we can move to monitor its effectiveness. We are always available to answer questions.  

People wearing Fitbits and iWatches can use snore lab apps. By self-monitoring, they have a good sense of when their appliance is in a good treatment position. In our practice, we always confirm this with either a high-resolution pulse oximetry monitor or a peripheral arterial tone monitor. These two types of monitors provide data we give the referring physician. I always send a letter and report back to the patient’s sleep physician and general dentist (if the patient is not also a general dentistry patient), and I ask the patient’s permission to include their primary doctor in the loop.  

After this, I see my sleep dental medicine patients for a six-month visit, then once a year for an annual visit. Often there are issues to be addressed. Sometimes the appliances need to be titrated a little bit more. Sometimes patients have been seating them improperly. Sometimes we see bite changes to address and document. 

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TMD patients present with a wide range of concerns and symptoms from tension headaches and muscle challenges to significant joint inflammation and breakdown. Accurate thorough diagnosis is the first step…

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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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Dental Sleep Medicine in Restorative Practice Part 3: Exam and Appliance Delivery Protocols

January 22, 2024 Todd Sander, DMD

My regular examination and treatment protocols for dental sleep medicine patients are based on what I learned from mentors, but I’ve molded them for my style of practice.  

Screening—Years ago, I offered 15-minute consultations for anyone who wanted to learn about dental sleep medicine and alternatives to CPAP. I found that patients were already well-versed, so I don’t do that anymore. When my team members answer the phone, they often answer insurance-related questions, and my team members have learned to answer those questions astutely. While on the phone, they weed out those just curious about how a dentist might help them and focus on those likely to be committed to my process and accept treatment. I have team members who are knowledgeable about oral appliances and quickly answer questions about them over the phone. 

Pre-Examination Records—Referred patients scheduled for a comprehensive dental sleep medicine exam are sent paperwork to complete before their examination. My clinical assistants gather the paperwork, including a detailed medical history, the referral from a sleep physician, the letter of medical necessity, and their polysomnogram, if they have had it, and the hypnogram. We gather as much data from the physician as possible. I review this in advance of seeing the patient. 

Pre-Examination Records Created by My Clinical Assistant—When patients arrive for their initial two-hour appointment, my clinical assistant takes digital impressions (sometimes we take traditional PVS impressions) and x-rays. She also collects vitals and interviews the patient just as a medical assistant would in a medical office. 

Examination—During a thorough examination, I voice-record the information needed for the medical documentation. By the end of the exam, I know what the patient’s treatment options are going to be and the anticipated charge for treatment. Sometimes the patient is not a candidate for a sleep appliance and I refer the patient to their physician. We still get paid for the comprehensive exam. Our patients are prepared for this. Even if we can’t help them, they appreciate the time we spend. When each patient leaves the comprehensive exam, we have all the information we need, including a protrusive bite registration if the patient is to receive an appliance. 

Medical Reimbursement—In my practice, payment is due upfront for the examination. If they know this is coming in, they’re accepting of this. We have chosen to do our best to help patients seek medical reimbursement and submit the required medical documentation for their insurance. We operate on a fee-for-service model, and this requires intentional conversations with patients so they will value our care, skill, and judgment whether insurance reimburses them or not. 

Second Appointment to Start Appliance Therapy—My clinical assistant helps by initially trying in the appliance we have had lab-fabricated. She educates the patient about warming the appliance in warm water if it is a thermoplastic material and fabricates a morning repositioner. Then I come in and do a fit check, spend more time adjusting the appliance if needed, answer questions, confirm that the appliance has been fabricated correctly, and review instructions for wearing the appliance and using the morning repositioner. For titratable appliances, I usually start an appliance at 50 to 60% protrusive if it’s a mandibular advancement appliance. I ask the patient not to advance the appliance for one week. If the appliance is titratable, we educate the patient on how to advance 1-2mm every two to three days until symptoms alleviate.  

Part 4 of this series will discuss how I monitor my sleep dental medicine patients. 

Related Course

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DATE: January 29 2025 @ 8:00 am - February 2 2025 @ 1:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 37

Dentist Tuition: $ 7200

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

TMD patients present with a wide range of concerns and symptoms from tension headaches and muscle challenges to significant joint inflammation and breakdown. Accurate thorough diagnosis is the first step…

Learn More>

About Author

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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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Temporary Crowns Are an Occasion for Dental Patient Education 

May 4, 2022 Kelley Brummett DMD

Another dentist asked me, “What temporary cement do you use so your temporary crowns actually stay on?”

The cement I like is TempoCem from DMG America. It is easy to utilize and clean. But there is a more important question than what type of material I like to use. It is: “What is going on with the tooth before the prep is begun?”

I have found that the reason temporaries come off is because something in the functional movement of the patient’s mouth is interfering with the tooth. Before prepping a tooth for a temporary, I anticipate I may need to re-design the tooth first.

Before prepping the tooth, I take an intraoral photo of the bite marks to understand what is going on functionally. I explain to the patient what I am looking for and show the patient the evidence of excursive interferences on the tooth. My goal is to design the provisional and the crown to decrease the forces and increase the functionality of the tooth. I then modify the tooth and take another intraoral photo of the bite marks to show the patient the changes before making the impression of the natural tooth.

I realize many dentists check the bite marks and modify the tooth prior to making an impression without the added step of photography and patient education. But I suggest you try using before and after photo images chairside to educate your patients. This process engages the patient in understanding how their teeth function and why there has been damage to the tooth. I’ve learned it also “opens their eyes” and increases their appreciation for the additional dentistry I recommend based on my comprehensive examination of their mouth and diagnosis.

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night with private bath: $ 290

THIS COURSE IS SOLD OUT What if you had one tool that increased comprehensive case acceptance, managed patients with moderate to high functional risk, verified centric relation and treated signs…

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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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