9 Rules to Practice in a Dental Sleep Medicine Office

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By Glennine Varga
As a dental team member, have you ever been given a new task that you don’t know much about? Has your doctor come home from a continuing education course and announced that the office will now be offering X, Y, and Z?! Then it becomes your job to explain the service offering to patients, promote it and become an expert! What?!
Let’s face it, anytime we are given something new, it can seem overwhelming and our natural tendency is to shy away from it. Dental sleep medicine can have this effect on many team members. With this in mind, remember that any new task takes practice and time. Learning about sleep health is an ongoing experience and an educational journey.
Here are nine simple rules to help guide you through your dental sleep medicine journey:
Rule #1: Know your topic.
Sleep disordered breathing is a relatively new field of study. Humans have struggled to breathe during sleep for thousands of years. However, science is just beginning to research it. Learn all you can about sleep staging, sleep breathing and terminology. It is a fascinating topic! The more you know, the better a resource you become to patients.
Rule #2: Engage with patients.
Once you understand how obstructed sleep breathing can impact a person’s overall health and wellness, it will become easier to talk with patients. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mood disorders are just a few conditions that are highly correlated with snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Learn the signs and symptoms so that you can start conversations with a simple question, such as, “Have you ever had your sleep evaluated?”
Rule #3: Master phone and objection skills.
Most patients will be scheduled for sleep consultations over the phone or during an office visit. When scheduling is involved, there will always be questions. Some of the more commons questions and objections are, “How much does it cost?” or “Does my insurance cover it?” Be prepared to answer popular questions and remember that all fees and insurance depend on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment.
Rule #4: Adopt a scheduling model.
There are two types of patients: non-diagnosed and pre-diagnosed patients. It is important for scheduling and maximizing time efficiency to have a protocol for each type of patient. The goal of the non-diagnosed patient is to get him or her diagnosed. The goal of the pre-diagnosed patient is to evaluate if he or she is a good candidate for an oral device.
Rule #5: Be prepared for financial arrangements.
Patients want to know treatment cost(s). Determine the office fee and keep in mind that when a patient is a candidate for an oral device, financial arrangements will fall under one of four options. They are: fee-for-service, courtesy billing, network billing or Medicare arrangements. Have financial contracts prepared for each option.
Rule #6: Understand medical billing.
This is a big topic. For starters, realize that there is no benefit with DENTAL insurance. However, most MEDICAL insurance policies, including Medicare, allow benefit for oral devices used to reduce upper airway collapsibility. Documentation needed for reimbursement will depend on details found in the patient’s medical insurance policy. The practice’s relationship with Medicare is another big decision point for the doctor.
Rule #7: Teach patients about their condition.
The typical medical model is to diagnose and offer treatment. Teaching patients about their condition and how it may impact their lives is often an opportunity for the dental team to significantly help their patients. Describing what normal results look like and how diagnosed OSA may impact other medical conditions can be a much appreciated service.
Rule #8: Know your therapy.
There are well over a hundred different oral device designs, each with specific protocols for adjusting and long term care. Patients tend to turn to the team with questions on device specifics. Communicate with your dental labs and learn all that you can about the design your dentist chooses for each patient.
Rule #9: Debrief every case.
When adding a new service to the practice, it is important that everyone understands the steps along the way. Plan a quick huddle to review each dental sleep medicine patient and provide an update of the patient’s progress with therapy along with the administrative part of his or her care. This will give the entire team an opportunity to review office protocols, ask questions and celebrate both patient and team success.
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Hopefully, the overview of nine critical rules to follow in dental sleep medicine has been helpful! This sleep team column will be dedicated to the team and provide practical tips and resourceful information in the upcoming issues. Let us know your specific issues by email to Editor@MedmarkAZ.com; while we can’t respond to every individual, your feedback will help us create the most useful Sleep Team Column we can!
Always remember that whether your team consists of two members or twenty-two, you are a TEAM. A team has each other’s back! A solid team spirit will drive volumes of success in dental sleep medicine.
Excellent documentation, clear protocol and patient success should be the culture of the practice. As a team member you have the ability to drive the success of dental sleep medicine in your practice. Enjoy your dental sleep medicine journey and, most of all, take pride in your ability to help people in your community live more full and rewarding lives!

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