Divergence, Convergence, and Agency

The path to Dental Sleep Medicine may not change the whole world, but it can change your practice’s world.

Jason Tierney

What’s next? What’s around the corner? Where do we go from here? These are questions we ask ourselves as a global community, a nation, as a profession, and as individuals.

Sometimes this can be something banal. Other times, it can be massive and monumental.

As a country, the United States is at a convergence. Or is it a divergence? The reckoning with past transgressions and charting new paths to a brighter future. Through dialogue. Through space (literally – just ask Bezos, Branson, and Musk). The Delta variant, vaccination holdouts, COVID breakthrough cases. The Capitol insurrection fallout. Where do we go from here?

As a profession, Dental Sleep Medicine is also at a crossroads. There are more dentists participating in dental sleep medicine educational courses than ever before. The number of people that may benefit from OAT is higher than any other time in history due to increasing obesity numbers, the Philips CPAP recall, the AHRQ draft report, and growing public awareness about dentistry’s indispensable role in addressing sleep disordered breathing.

Nonetheless, we are nowhere near an inflection point. We cast aspersions about other companies’ appliances and chuck muck at medical colleagues and peers whose crimes are being uninformed, ill-informed, or more successful than us. There is a lot of work to do, collaborative relationships to form, research to conduct, technologies to harness, and dammit, there are millions of people to help.

I’ve been hearing about the looming dental sleep medicine tipping point for fifteen years. Yes, we’ve seen growth, increased adoption, and improvements to the landscape. Most medical payors reimburse for treatment, respected professional organizations such as the ADA and AADSM have provided explicit guidance highlighting the importance of DSM, and the list goes on with a litany of micro-wins.

But what happens next? Do we continue to take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back until we reach the proverbial promised land? What is our moonshot and who will manage mission control?

That’s up to you. Each of us possesses agency. We choose our path. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change ourselves. If you do that, someone else will see it and they’ll influence another, and another, ad infinitum. It is through these singular changes that movements are born. If you want to change dental sleep medicine – if you desire to see more medical referrals, more sensible insurance payments, more meaningful regulatory changes, then start with changing your own practice.

The weight of the world is on your shoulders. Now. But others will see you and come to your aid. The yoke will lighten, and the world will be elevated.

Dental Sleep Medicine should be commonplace – writing this next chapter is a collaborative project. Make it happen.

William E. Williams shows how to get on the path to Dental Sleep Medicine in his article “Starting a Dental Sleep Medicine Practice.” Read it here: https://dentalsleeppractice.com/starting-a-dental-sleep-medicine-practice/

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