Dr. Anthony Bolamperti writes about snoring and how he treats his patients noninvasively with Solea lasers.
Improving Patient Sleep and Dental Practice Outcomes with Laser Dentistry
by Dr. Anthony Bolamperti
Snoring is a fact of life for nearly half of men and close to 30% of women, and the impact of this disorder ranges from mild annoyance to significant sleep disruptions that can contribute to heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Snoring is also the third-leading cause of divorce in the United States, and I have heard from plenty of patients who sleep in a different room from their spouse just to get a good night’s sleep. But even if those middle-of-the-night rumblings don’t cause tensions with your partner, they prevent the body from getting needed rejuvenation, causing sleep deficiency that has been linked to a higher chance of injury for adults and teens.
However you look at it, snoring reduces quality of life, and given its prevalence, chances are there are plenty of patients in your own waiting room who would benefit from learning about the value-added services you can provide to help alleviate snoring for them, their partner, or family members.
Dentists have a long history of helping patients sleep better, but our contributions have historically focused on creating oral appliances for use at night. While appliances can be effective, that effectiveness is heavily dependent on patient compliance. Dentists who establish an open line of communication about broader patient needs, such as snoring, have an opportunity to understand and influence patient compliance with the use of oral appliances, but they can also create opportunities to identify a potential connection between snoring and more serious health conditions, such as sleep apnea. Providing this level of attention to the overall needs of patients can solidify your doctor-patient relationships and create new revenue streams, particularly if you have adopted laser dentistry into your practice.
Laser dentistry presents a tremendous opportunity for dentists to deliver an alternative to invasive surgical procedures that have been used to treat snoring, such as UPPP (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty), or to support and complement traditional snoring therapies to deliver more long-lasting relief with minimal discomfort.
I have been performing such procedures using the Solea® All-Tissue Laser and Solea Sleep from Convergent Dental. The 9.3-micron laser makes it easy to quickly relieve snoring for “palatal” or mouth snorers, which account for 80% of snorers overall. In as little as 15 minutes per treatment, Solea Sleep tightens the collagen fibers of the soft palate, reducing or eliminating the vibrations that cause snoring. Similar treatments are possible with other lasers, but at these varied wavelengths, absorption depth is either too shallow to effectively target collagen, meaning additional treatments are necessary, or too deep, which results in needlessly heating tissues in the soft palate.
While we have seen great success at our practice treating snoring with Solea Sleep, laser treatment is not a perfect fit for every type of snorer. For example, patients who have a high body mass index or other lifestyle factors such as consumption of alcohol or caffeine might not see the desired result from laser treatment, especially if patients continue those behaviors post-treatment. To ensure that patients understand the connection between such factors and their treatment success, I recommend taking the time to screen and educate patients prior to treatment, setting realistic expectations so patients can make the best decision for their situation.
Expanding into laser-based sleep dentistry offers the opportunity to solidify patient relationships by providing additional services that improve a patient’s – and in some cases, a family’s – quality of life and overall health.
3 Ways Laser Dentistry Can Improve Your Practice
Treating snoring with laser dentistry has several potential benefits for patients and dentists, but following are three practice-changing outcomes that I have experienced from using the Solea laser to treat snoring for our patients.
- Fast treatment won’t disrupt patients’ lives. Treatment with Solea Sleep takes about half as long as I experienced with an erbium laser, and patients can get back to their day with little to no discomfort. Minor irritation from the procedure – patients have compared it to the feeling of drinking a very hot cup of coffee – usually abates within 24 hours, compared to two to four weeks of discomfort following surgical procedures. In some cases, patients report dramatic snoring reduction and easier breathing the night after their procedure. This is good news for patients and it allows you to add new services to your practice without disrupting existing workflows and procedures.
- Long-lasting relief increases patient satisfaction. Palate stiffness typically increases significantly after treatment with Solea Sleep, and the procedure offers most patients (and their partners) long-lasting snoring relief with little to no discomfort. I have seen such gratitude from patients, who in some cases report getting a good night’s sleep for the first time in years following treatment. I’ve also heard from patients who say they are sleeping and even dreaming more vividly. As someone who pursued this career to make a difference in my patients’ lives, that is incredibly rewarding.
- In-house treatment capitalizes on doctor-patient trust. While sleep dentistry is not new to the industry, treatment to reduce snoring has typically required a referral to a sleep specialist or surgeon. Using Solea Sleep has allowed our practice to retain more business by conducting this simple procedure in-house. I have performed more than 200 procedures with Solea Sleep, and I currently do three or four snoring consultations every week despite no longer advertising the procedure. Most of these patients are new to my practice, and while some return to their own dentist for ongoing care, I have retained many as patients. At the same time, I have seen increased patient satisfaction and referrals from satisfied patients without disrupting any other activities.
Just the fact that I can have conversations about snoring with my patients – and offer them real solutions – has allowed me to identify new patients for whom I can provide a better night’s sleep. In addition, the Solea laser allows me to provide services like correcting tongue ties to improve breathing, another significant cause of snoring, rather than referring those procedures out to a specialist. This has allowed me to take my practice to levels I couldn’t have imagined.
As dentists, we all go to great lengths to build rapport and trust with our patients. Expanding into laser-based sleep dentistry offers the opportunity to solidify patient relationships by providing additional services that improve a patient’s – and in some cases, a family’s – quality of life and overall health. My experience with laser dentistry in general and Solea Sleep in particular has allowed me to become more than a general dentist and offer services that change patients’ lives for the better. That’s good for patients, and it’s good for business.