by Neal Seltzer, DMD, FAGD, D.ABDSM, D.ASBA, D.ACSDD, and Jeffrey S. Rein, DDS, FAGD, D.ABDSM, D.ASBA, D.ACSDD
Dental Sleep Medicine became a passion of ours over two decades ago. The reason we open this article with that statement is because the key take away message is passion! That passion comes from the rewards we have had in helping so many patients improve the quality of their lives. The number one reason we have had success in Dental Sleep Medicine is because our passion has enabled us to build great relationships.
We feel great pride in the accomplishments we have enjoyed in our dental practice. Dentistry is a magnificently rewarding career. Our state of the art dental practice, utilizing cutting edge technology such as CEREC in office milling, Galileos 3D conebeam imaging, the CANARY caries detection system, rotary endodontic technology, STA single tooth anesthesia, buffered anesthesia, as well as investments in dental practice consultants and well trained and educated staff, has made it possible to deliver high end efficient treatment that is patient friendly, profitable and rewarding. Relieving pain and Improving quality of life through dentistry is a gift.
However, nothing we do in dentistry compares to the magnitude of satisfaction we both receive when we actually help saves lives through Dental Sleep Medicine.
Saving lives! Who knew this would become a major part of our dental practice over 20 years ago. Once you experience that feeling, it’s hard to let go of it and that feeling has fueled the passion and drive we have had to continually build our Dental Sleep Practice. Long Island Dental Sleep Medicine is one of the largest providers of oral appliance therapy in the New York City area. This accomplishment has come out of the passion but even more it has come out of very hard work building relationships in the medical community.
For the majority of our career treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the main source of patients has come via physician referral. The network of physicians who refer to us has been the backbone of our growth. It has taken years of perseverance to forge these connections and relationships but that effort has paid off in spades.
Over the years, we have spent a lot of time speaking with other dentists who are interested in incorporating the treatment of OSA into their practice. Many have expressed difficulty in getting physicians to get onboard and send patients their way. For those dentists passionate about building a Dental Sleep Practice, we want to share some of the things we feel are key to establishing great long-term relationships with our medical colleagues.
This point is huge. If you want to impress physicians you need to have as much education about sleep medicine as possible. You are entering their arena: the medical world. Know your stuff and be able to converse in their language. They are responsible for their patients and they want to know they are sending a patient to a confident and knowledgeable doctor. More importantly, be educated for your patients. As we said, this is life-saving medicine and it comes with tremendous responsibility. There is no end to the learning. We continually attend courses in Sleep Medicine and keep abreast of the latest and greatest in technology associated with oral appliance therapy.
At the end of the day, connecting with physicians and sleep labs comes down to one thing… meeting them face to face and letting them know who you are and what you bring to the table. At first, it can be a little intimidating. Again, you are entering the world of medicine. So come armed and let the physicians know you are educated, passionate and dedicated to helping their patients. Most physicians have had little exposure to sleep medicine themselves. They have been frustrated that there have been few options for their patients struggling with CPAP. For the most part, you will be a new connection for their practice and a welcome option for many of their patients.
We have spent years pounding the pavement, going door to door and being missionaries for Oral Appliance Therapy. We have hosted study clubs, done lunch and learns, visited sleep labs, and offered our time to educate medical office staff about what we do and options patients now have. In essence, we have tried to be a team player with all the physicians we meet and help them deliver better care to their patients. We truly bring our passion to the physician and we believe that message has bonded our relationships with so many of our dedicated referral sources.
As our Dental Sleep Practice grew, we decided to really focus our practice in this area. We made a decision to head in a direction in which we would be leaders in our area in treating OSA.
In order to accomplish this goal we reached out for help. We needed people who could propel our ability to make connections with physicians to a new level. This meant working with a marketing team.
As professionals, we suggest always aligning yourself with professionals when you can in business. If you needed help in a legal matter you would hire an attorney. For your finances you use an accountant or financial planner. For insurance needs you consult an insurance agent. To market yourself, it is invaluable to invest in a marketing team.
We met the SLEEP APNEA MD marketing team about five years ago at one of the AADSM meetings. Their game plan of internet marketing, newsletters via the mail, and reaching out to physicians with personal skilled phone contact, impressed us.
Website: We put our trust in SLEEP APNEA MD and they created a website for us dedicated to our Dental Sleep Practice. This website, under their guidance, has kept us in the top search profiles in our area year after year. It has also become a proud reference and information source when meeting physicians and for our patients to use also.
Branding: By branding the sleep medicine half of our practice into LONG ISLAND DENTAL SLEEP MEDICINE, we established a distinction of commitment and experience and an image of what we wanted the public and physicians to recognize us as; EXPERTS in this field. So we separated everything in our practice into two divisions. Our dental practice had its own identity and sleep medicine would have its identity. Business cards, brochures, stationery, and most of all the website would represent our vision of LONG ISLAND DENTAL SLEEP MEDICINE. If you are seriously going to try to make an impact in your area we would suggest doing the same.
Leverage: This is the term SLEEP APNEA MD used to guide us into becoming a prominent force in our area. It means getting the most bang for the buck, as you would say, in reaching out to physicians and the community. You need to spend money to market your practice. The key is to leave it to the professionals to leverage that money so that it is well spent and it pays off.
Newsletters: Keeping your name out there and on their minds. That’s what the monthly newsletters do. It’s important to keep our medical colleagues abreast of what’s new and exciting in our field and specifically what we are doing in our practice that’s cutting edge. It’s a great communication tool that keeps reminding the physicians that we are there for them and their patients.
Phone Calls: Short of meeting a physician in person, nothing is more efficient in making a connection with a new medical office than a professionally made custom script that the marketing team creates and executes to make contact by phone. Reaching a receptionist, an office manager, or even the doctor are all golden opportunities to educate. It is still amazing to us how many physicians are not knowledgeable about sleep issues and OSA. These cold calls are very often met with gratitude and curiosity to learn more. Most of the time, they result in an eventual meeting or at minimum, a request for our office info including referral cards. One valuable connection with a good referrer can make the investment in marketing pay for itself.
Remember as a provider of oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, you are a specialist in a medical world. However, no one is better suited for this task than a well qualified, well educated dentist. Our knowledge of the oral cavity, with all its complexity from periodontal issues, restorative considerations, and TMJ function, to name just a few, makes us the ideal practitioner to deliver, monitor and maintain oral appliances. It is your job to educate yourself, as well as you can, to enable yourself to treat your patients with the utmost of care. Once you are saving lives we know the passion will be sparked in you as it was in ourselves. Building relationships will come as your medical colleagues embrace your passion.
Building a successful Dental Sleep Medicine practice takes a lot of hard work. It also takes time.
Create a strong presence in your area. Connect with a great experienced marketing team. We hope some of the advice we have shared will bring you success and most of all help people in a way you never knew dentistry could. We promise you, it will all be worth it in the end.