January 04, 2012 – I have been involved in the treatment of sleep apnea for over 20 years. My first foray into the industry was with the Silencer in 1993. At that time I had no dental background and the practice of dental sleep medicine was just beginning. Since that time, I have been involved with all aspects of the diagnostics and treatment of sleep disorders. I believe the most misunderstood relationship in the practice of dental sleep medicine is the relationship between the dental lab and the dentist in building oral appliances for the patient. What is often lost in the discussion of sleep medicine is that each oral appliance is made by hand, by a technician trained in the fabrication of dental devices, to the specification requested by the dentist.
I first witnessed this relationship while Dr. Wayne Halstrom developed the Silencer and his “Lab Man” Loris Campagnolo (then with Space Maintainers) developed the techniques that became the Silencer system. Here we are 20 years later and Loris is still working with Dr. Halstrom now in his own lab called Echelon in Burnaby British Columbia. When you ask Dr. Halstrom about the Silencer he often refers to the trials of finding materials and developing easily teachable and transferable techniques, all with the help of a highly skilled technician from which to bounce ideas. The Silencer has grown over the years to be a widely used oral appliance in the treatment of OSA. The durability of the device is well known and it is available from some of the best dental technicians in the country, Johns Dental Lab, Burbank Dental and Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab to name a few.
The educational requirement of both the dentist and the technician have really evolved in the last several years as the focus of the dental sleep business has become much more easily accepted by the medical community. The challenges the dental community face in providing these devices have shifted from appliance and dental procedure issues to issues of practice management, medical insurance and mass marketing.
Once again the “Lab Man” is not far away. David Gergen of Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab has taken it upon himself to assemble advance courses in sleep dentistry that will give the dentist the tools to understand the requirements of the dental sleep medicine world outside of the standard dental issues of occlusion, impression technique and appliance selection. David focuses his courses on all the next steps after the doctor has begun the practice of dental sleep medicine. David has often told me that “the biggest mistake a dentist can make is to assume that sleep medicine is just like tooth whitening or “Invisalign.” The relationship between the dentist and the lab is taken very seriously at Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab. “If the dentist is not successful we cannot be successful.”
Reports from the Gergen courses have been very good. Dr. Gerbholtz attended the meeting in Sonoma, CA and had this to say, “I left Sonoma with a new passion and a good working business model that actually made sense and worked. Where before I was seeing only 2 to 6 patients each month, I am now seeing 20 to 24 patients each month after Sonoma.” I found that the focus on internal marketing for the dental practice really paid off for some practices. Dr Michael Van Leeuwen reports, “I am now seeing three times the number of patients and they are all getting are sleeping better with the modified sleep Herbst appliance.”
In summary, if you are considering the practice of sleep dentistry or are looking for a dental team to treat your patient. Take some time and develop the relationship and understand that each therapy is customized to the patient and there is a whole team of highly trained individuals working behind the scenes making sure that everyone in the process has an excellent outcome. Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab provides the following sleep appliances: Sleep Herbst, the Silencer, EMA, and TAP. The next course is in Las Vegas.
If you have any questions or need internal or external marketing for your practice you can reach out directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org