In Your Own Words

Key team members offer an inside look into the challenges and rewards of a dental sleep medicine practice.

Teamwork makes the dream work, right? It’s often stated that teams play a crucial role in the success or failure of Dental Sleep Practices. This issue we decided to go right to the source, to key team members, and ask them each the following three questions.

  1. What does a day of DSM in your life look like?
  2. What is (a) most challenging & (b) most rewarding about the role?
  3. What are 3 must haves for you to work your magic?

Here are the answers in Your Own Words.

Nichelle E. Sutton
Clinical Sleep Specialist, GoTo Sleep Center
Stacey C. Layman, DDS, D.ABDSM

  1. As the lead clinical assistant my day is a constant adventure. Each day is different and brings its own challenges. On a daily basis I am looking at the next day as well as the week ahead. Preparedness is my motto. I’m not a fan of surprises unless they are flowers and chocolate! I make sure I have all of the devices I need for my deliveries as well as the supplies and required paperwork. Once the patients arrive, I bring them back and start by getting to know them or catching up with them. It’s important to me that patients know we aren’t a mill (none of that “get em’ in, get em’ out” crap here). We treat the whole person and care about them as people, not just their disease. I am cross-trained in the office so I have clinic days and front office days.
  2. The most challenging part of my job is helping patients understand that the oral appliance is not a magic pill that will make all their sleeping problems go away. Some patients come to us expecting a cure-all, but many of these people have other medical conditions and medications that make quality sleep elusive. I invest a lot of time explaining the process and helping them understand that it may take several weeks to find their sweet spot (that point at which their device has normalized their sleep apnea). I ask them to be patient and don’t give up, we will get there.
    The most rewarding part of my job is the moment when I look in their eyes and “they get it” – when I see an excited, vibrant, and well-rested individual. Those are the moments I go home satisfied and fulfilled!
  3. The three must haves in my life are flowers, chocolate and … oh wait, we were talking about work. Sorry.
    1. Carestream 3600 scanner. Taking digital impressions instead of analog impressions is a game changer. Devices fit accurately and comfortably, making the delivery process a breeze.
    2. A software system that is designed for treating sleep apnea and not just a general dental software is hugely helpful.
    3. And last but not least, I cannot live without is my team!! Having a caring, supportive and encouraging team is the only way I am truly fulfilled.

Jessica Vasquez
Director of Operations, Sleep Better Austin
Max Kerr, DDS, D.ABDSM & Brandon Hedgecock, DDS, D.ABDSM

  1. My role requires me to oversee all operations of the practice. I divide my time to ensure that I am being intentional and productive within the business.30% of my time is spent overseeing department leads – Administrative, Clinical, Physician Liaison/Marketing. I ensure that each department is taking care of their down line and that every department is taking care of our patients and meeting business expectations. This includes meetings with team leads, looking for training opportunities, coaching and constant communication with leads on day to day operations and areas of opportunity.
    30% of time is spent on auditing each department and ensuring that our systems are being used and protocols are being followed.
    30% of my time is focused on “What next?” Projecting and forecasting for the future of the business. Strategizing next steps.
    10% of time is dedicated to admin and HR work.
  2. The most challenging aspect of my role is balancing my time. Ensuring that I am present for my team and making sure I allow intentional time to look at what our next steps are for the business and patient outcomes to be successful.
    The most rewarding part of my job is hearing patient success stories. The everyday things we take for granted such as sitting through a movie without falling asleep or getting back in the same bed as your bed partner can be life changing milestones for our patients. Knowing that we are truly saving lives every day keeps our team going.
    1. Dedicated team
    2. Supportive doctors & leadership
    3. Systems & processes

Tanya Bowling
Sleep Coordinator, Caffaratti Dental Group/Innovative Sleep Concepts
Jason Doucette, DMD, D.ABDSM

  1. A regular DSM day for me is seeing new patients, using the Eccovision phayrngometer and rhinometer, taking impressions, delivering appliances and seeing patients for adjustments. Between patients I upload all document images (sleep studies, MD clinical notes, LOMN/RX, etc.), write letters to patient’s doctors letting them know how the patient’s progress is going (sleep MD, PCP, Cardio, Dentist, ENT), fax letters and any information requested, and return any phone calls that come in during the day from labs, patients, and doctor’s offices.
  2. The most challenging thing about DSM is dealing with insurance companies. When billing insurance it is very important to make sure you have all documents needed to bill. This includes all clinical notes, a current sleep study, and LOMN/RX from referring sleep physician. Even when you have all this information, some insurances will require additional information such as: lack of TMJ, perio charting, and x-rays. This is why it is nice to have GOGO Billing there to help.
    The most rewarding thing about DSM is seeing how our patient’s lives improve after wearing their oral appliances. They stop snoring, sleep better, have more energy during the day, headaches go away, anxiety and depression get better, and there are so many other health improvements I wish I could list them all.  The best thing is all the hugs I get from patients because they are so happy with treatment.
    1. Eccovision pharyngometer. This al – lows us to see the patient’s airway collapsibility and then how we are stabilizing the airway when putting the mandible in different verticals and protrusion.
    2. ITero Scanner. It is so nice being able to do digital impressions and being able to send them directly to our labs.
    3. Great sleep team to work with. Ev – eryone in our office has an important role and without all of them our office would not be successful.

Samantha Church
Best Sleep Champion, Sleep Better Northwest
Erin Elliott, DDS

  1. Seeing patients, medical insurance documentation, insurance checks, and finan
  2. Troubleshooting when things don’t go as planned can be a real challenge. You know, not all patients’ anatomy is created It’s incredibly rewarding when patients and spouses come back and are blown away by how much better they are feeling.
    1. AM Aligners
    2. Home Sleep Tests
    3. Quality appliances and supportive lab reps

Drs. Michael Simmons and Colin Shapiro also look at the challenges and rewards of a dental sleep medicine practice in their article, “Population Sleep Health…Dentists Providing Solutions.” Read it in this issue of Dental Sleep Practice:   https://issuu.com/medmark/docs/dsp_summer2019_issuu.

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