7 Ways Dentists Fail Treating Sleep Apnea - Nexus Dental Systems

7 Ways Dentists Fail Treating Sleep Apnea

Successfully treating sleep apnea in your dental practice?

You have taken classes, attended seminars, webinars and online courses, but still you struggle to implement a dental sleep medicine program at your practice. At Nexus, we speak with dentists across the country every day and we see them failing at treating sleep apnea, usually for one of the 7 reasons listed below:

No Sleep Coordinator

What this means for your team:

The Sleep coordinator a is a key position in any dental sleep practice, most of all for a general dentist who also treats sleep.

Lack of Team Training

What this means for your team:

Treating sleep cannot fall on the dentist alone. Each member of the team must know their part in treating sleep.

Lack of Team Buy-in

What this means for your team:

Each member of the team must be invested in treating OSA. If the team does not see the benefits, they will not consistently perform their jobs, resulting in fewer patients being treated.

Inconsistent Screening

What this means for your team:

Instituting a Comprehensive Screening protocol is key to success in Dental Sleep Medicine.

Ineffective Case Presentation

What this means for your patient:

What this means for the dentist:

Effective case presentation:

“I’ll think about it.”

“No thanks, not today.”

If your patient says something like this after you present test results indicating they have OSA – you haven’t done your job. Being able to help people requires effective communication skills. It all comes down to case presentation.

Medical Billing Problems

What this means for the patients: 

What this means for the dentist:

Many dentists become frustrated with medical billing: it can be confusing, complicated and infuriatingly inconsistent.

No Physician Relationships

What this means for your patients:

Physician referrals are key to every dental sleep practice. But building a solid referral network takes both time and effort. It’s not something that is taught in dental school.

What To Do

● Designate or hire a team member to “own” sleep and guide patients through
● Train the whole team so they have the skills and confidence to treat sleep apnea
● Educate your team about the effects and prevalence of sleep apnea
● Train your team to screen as part of their normal daily routine
● Use proven communication techniques to effectively reach your patients
● Train or hire experts to navigate the world of medical insurance
● Document your expertise to confidently approach physicians

Find Your First 300 Patients


1 in 5 American adults have mild OSA¹


1 in 15 have moderate to severe OSA¹

% of these patients are undiagnosed / unaware of their condition²
1. Young et al. J Am Med Assoc 2004
2. Young et al. Sleep 2008

Risk is Elevated in Those Who Are:

Typical American Dental Practice

An average, well-run, solo general dental practice with two restorative rooms and two hygiene rooms should produce about $1,125,000 per year, and with $750 per year average patient billings = 1500 patients¹.

1 in 5 American adults have mild OSA²
1500 patients / 5 = 300 sleep patients already in your typical solo dental practices MORE if you are part of a group practice!

1. http://www.aftco.net
2. Young et al. J Am Med Assoc 2004

So Why Are You Not Treating Those 300 Patients?

● Your team is not screening every patient, usually because…
● There is no one in charge of the process, ensuring they follow protocol
● No sleep coordinator = no ongoing coaching; team doesn’t know what to do
● The team doesn’t believe in sleep medicine – again, lack of coaching
● Once the patient is screened, they don’t agree to treatment
● Problems with billing are another barrier to treatment
● A solid physician network will support every stage of treatment

The Secret

There you have it. You have patients already, but if you don’t commit to sleep medicine, and get your team committed to sleep medicine, you will lose out on the patients you already have.

These patients are the beginning of your future in sleep. These patients you already have a relationship with, you can hone your craft, train your team and iron out your billing problems.

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