by Dr. Joe Magness and Crystal May
What an exciting time to be a dentist! Now more than ever before, we are being asked to participate and play a very active role in the overall health of our patients. Health is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, and spirit.” You know the correlation between oral hygiene, inflammation, oral function, and our health, but do you know what a significant effect poor sleep has on overall health? Many, including myself, believe sleep is the foundation of health, and without quality sleep, the body cannot properly function. Dentistry has an opportunity to intervene in current sleep protocols and we can impact health in more ways than ever. I’d like to think that not only is it an opportunity, but it’s also an obligation. Dentists have always had a role in health with the treatment of periodontal disease, infection, impacted teeth, malocclusion, tooth replacement, and caries, but now the role has evolved.
The ADA released a statement in 2017 emphasizing the importance of a dentist’s role in screening for sleep-related breathing disorders for children and adults1; I believe that is just the beginning. This new standard of care supports the valuable role that dentists play in dental sleep medicine. The AADSM has stated that dentists play an integral role in reducing the public health burden of undiagnosed and untreated sleep-related breathing disorders and make an invaluable contribution in managing these disorders with oral appliance therapy2. Oral appliances stand apart from other treatment options for certain sleep disorders because of their effectiveness and high compliance. They are also both preventative and conservative. Sleep specialists are becoming more open to collaboration with dentists and recommending oral appliances.
It is estimated that over 70% of Americans saw a dentist in 20153. That puts dentists in a unique position for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders. We should view this as an untapped opportunity. We have an organic way to educate 70% of the population on the importance of quality sleep. And considering about 80 to 90 percent of adults with clinically significant sleep-disordered breathing remain undiagnosed4, that’s a pretty powerful tool. The first step is to screen our patients by reviewing their medical history, discussing their sleep symptoms and examining their oral cavity. With the staggering numbers above, we are our patients’ best chance at health.
I personally feel an obligation to help my patients live better, with improved health. Sleep is the key to better health. With this overwhelming opportunity and obligation, it is crucial that dentists get involved. Not only the few thousand dentists that are currently engaged in dental sleep medicine but also the other 150,000+ dentists in the United States alone5. Here is your official welcome to dental sleep medicine! How will your office manage the new, elevated standard of care?
You Have Options
imagn® Solutions has consulted with offices across the country, and we have seen that the doctor’s passion for educating patients and improving their overall health is the single most significant indicator of success in dental sleep medicine. Add education, a supportive, motivated team, and accountability and you will have a successful dental sleep practice.
How can you develop a passion for sleep and what sleep implementation can do for your office and your patients? Be the scientist and the subject. Get tested. Get treated. See for yourself the positive effects quality sleep can have on your life. There is no better way to fully understand the benefits that improving sleep can have, than experiencing it for yourself and helping those closest to you. As a coach, we strongly encourage you to test yourself and your team first. More often than not, if this isn’t done, an office will struggle. Once you have that personal experience, it is effortless to sit in front of a patient with conviction and authenticity. I believe my passion from my own personal experience with sleep and health is one of the reasons my company is successful in teaching others.
Once you are positively affected by sleep treatment, there will be no stopping the wave of excitement in sharing your knowledge and passion with your patients. imagn Solutions has created a “screen every patient” protocol. Each patient who is part of your practice should be screened for a sleep disorder. The potential this creates for growth, whether from a total health perspective, a revenue perspective or even from a referral perspective will likely exceed your expectations. One very passionate customer, who has seen sleep dentistry change his life, his practice and even his community, says “It’s everywhere, it affects everyone, and I’ve just scratched the surface.” He also says, “While this has been one of the most rewarding endeavors in over 30 years of dentistry, it also takes a lot of persistence and effort.”
Ask yourself, to what degree am I going to implement this new standard of care?
Some dentists dream of exclusively treating sleep, while others want sleep to be one of many advanced services they offer. Still, others wish only to meet the standard of care guidelines, to screen. We have identified two different categories of dental practices. You need to decide: Are you in the category of screen and refer or the category of screen and treat? One thing is certain – screening is not optional. Depending on your chosen path in dental sleep medicine, imagn Solutions will guide you.
“We’ve been using imagn Solutions for over a year now. imagn Sleep Software has been the key to our success. From screening, exams, treatment plans, and medical billing, it is the total package.”
Kalley B. | Todd Fincher, DDS
Option #1: Screen and Refer
Take an introductory course to be trained on how to properly identify and screen for sleep disorders. Educate your team on your screening protocol and clearly define your role in dental sleep. Create a referral letter and start getting familiar with sleep labs and sleep specialists in your community to create referral relationships.
imagn Solutions has created both introductory and advanced courses for dental sleep medicine. Our practical, hands-on approach has been successful in helping dental offices integrate sleep at whatever degree they choose. Each provider leaves with an understanding of sleep, health, screening protocols, sleep testing options, how to get their team involved and the basics on medical billing.
Option #2: Screen and Treat
If you want to truly impact the health of your patients and boost your practice, you will go beyond screening, and incorporate sleep treatment into your practice. This will require some additional education. Consider introductory and advanced courses, joining study clubs and forums, even university residency programs. You will need to be an expert on the topic.
Get your team involved. Success in dental sleep is not dependent only on the provider; team involvement is key. This is where we see the biggest difference between success and failure. Our most popular training program includes customized on-site team training and ongoing coaching. Your coach will be there for your team when the exceptions come up and when obstacles arise.
Develop protocols. You will need to develop a protocol and process for screening, testing, treating, referring, tracking and billing. imagn Solutions has developed these systems, based on input from hundreds of providers, thousands of treated patients and over a decade of tried and true practice. To streamline and manage these procedures, you need software. We have developed dentistry’s solution for both medical billing and sleep management software. Take advantage of the other technological advancements, such as digital impressions, HSATs, CBCT, and diagnostic tools available in dentistry. Digital scanning for appliances ensures the best fit for comfort and compliance, whether you are a general practice or a sleep exclusive practice. Investment in these tools creates efficiency in the workflow and has a high return on investment when dental sleep medicine is integrated. This digital workflow is key to successfully managing dental sleep medicine and makes it more enjoyable for the provider and team.
Can you imagine running a dental practice without software? Imagine scheduling, patient communication, and billing without technology. It would simply be an unmanageable task in today’s world. Current dental practice management software programs were not built to handle this new division of dentistry, and often don’t fully support medical billing. To meet the new standard of care, and the rising opportunity for medical billing in dentistry, we have developed a cloud-based software platform known as imagn®. With two modules, one for sleep management and one for medical billing, we have a software solution for every practice. Our philosophy is to create automation and efficiency, letting advanced technology do the work for you, without disrupting your day-to-day flow. imagn understands time is not something dental teams have in excess, so let imagn software do some of the heavy lifting for you.
One of the most common areas of confusion and concern when incorporating sleep dentistry is medical billing. Once you understand the basic rules and documentation requirements, medical billing becomes more manageable. When you start to see success with cases, it becomes obvious that offering medical billing is a practice differentiator and valuable patient service. When patients and medical providers see that you have mastered this part of the equation, they will respect your role even more. And it’s not just oral appliances you can bill for! You can bill for office visits, imaging, repairs, and even testing. In fact, medical billing isn’t limited to sleep at all, and many of our customers bill for trauma, oral surgery, diagnostic services, and even periodontal treatment.
Coding, submissions, and tracking is the next part of the equation. To assist offices with this, we have created a medical billing software and service, imagn Billing, that’s unlike any other. Our approach starts with education and ends with automation. We have a low cost, efficient way to collect documentation, submit pre-authorizations and claims and track each case through the process.
Not a medical billing expert? No problem. With imagn Billing’s Smart Code technology, the dental to medical cross coding is just a click away. Since the software is cloud-based, updates and coding changes are always current. One of the biggest complaints we hear about medical billing companies is the lack of communication. Offices often feel like they are chasing claims, calling insurance companies and spending far too much of their own time. You will love our real-time status updates, built-in chat feature and claim tracking system. imagn Solutions also offers education and consulting services specific to medical billing, with on-site, remote and classroom CE programs.
“imagn Sleep Software is an excellent add-on to Dentrix® to run your Airway and DSM practice. Demographics and treatment plan sync nicely.”
Dr. Michael Gelb
If you have chosen to incorporate sleep treatment into your practice, you need a sleep software to effectively coordinate and streamline the process. We have found that while some offices are exclusively treating sleep, many are adding sleep as a small part of their overall practice. Your sleep protocols need to fit as seamlessly as possible into your current patient workflow, thus needing to work with your existing practice management software. With imagn Sleep Software, you can customize almost all aspects of the software, including medical history, screening templates, intraoral exams, and referral letters. Using pipelines and checklists, pre-loaded forms, auto-generated soap notes and the practice dashboard, you can track and manage your sleep patients in one place. All of this, plus a seamless connection to the imagn Billing platform.
Great news for Dentrix users. imagn offers a Dentrix connection that gives you both read and write capabilities. With access to patient information, medical history alerts and even the clinical notes, dual entry is a thing of the past. The imagn module is a permanent tab found inside of the Dentrix Chart, giving you easy access to the patient’s sleep chart, without ever leaving Dentrix. You get the best of both worlds, having the convenience of the Dentrix connection and the accessibility of imagn’s cloud-based application.
Not a Dentrix user? Since imagn Sleep is cloud-based, it can work standalone with any practice management software you use.
We haven’t stopped there! imagn is continually improving imagn Sleep and imagn Billing by implementing the feedback of our users. We also offer a “Complete Sleep Solution” with on-site and remote consulting, courses, and oral appliances. Visit imagnsolutions.com or call for advice.
Stay the Course
As you elevate the standard of care in your practice there will be speed bumps. This is no different than any new procedure, product, or service you provide. I will never say it will be easy, but I will always say it will be worth it. With the number of patients undiagnosed, and the growing evidence supporting how critical sleep is to health, dental sleep medicine is just getting started. The expectations for dentists to provide more comprehensive care coupled with patients desire for good health has accelerated the dental sleep medicine revolution. In the words of Dr. Gordon Christensen, “Joe, you realize sleep will be the savior of dentistry.”
This new division of dentistry requires passion for health and good sleep, education, technology and support to overcome the speedbumps. Embracing this new elevated standard of care will strengthen your practice and improve the health of your patients. I see a future where this new standard is integrated into every dental practice in the country.
- The Role of Dentistry in the Treatment of Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders Adopted by ADA’s 2017 House of Delegates https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Member%20Center/FIles/The-Role-of-Dentistry-in-Sleep-Related-Breathing-Disorders.pdf?la=en
- Policy Statement on a Dentist’s Role in Treating Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders https://aadsm.org/docs/Policy_statement_on_role_of_dentists_2017.pdf
- Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/#
- National Center for Health Statistics: Oral and Dental Health https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm
- Munson B, Vujicic M. Number of practicing dentists per capita in the United States will grow steadily. Health Policy Institute Research Brief. American Dental Association. June 2016 (Revised).