Let sleep dentistry awaken new growth in your practice

Columns , Current Issue
Editor’s intro: Dr. Roger P. Levin points out key ways to awaken growth in an orthodontic practice such as introducing new treatment options and services. 

Introducing a new service to your orthodontic practice can be a daunting task. I often liken it to changing a tire while your car is speeding down the highway at 60 mph. Still, if you’re willing to make the effort, it can help grow your practice. This month’s issue of Orthodontic Practice US focuses on the emergence of sleep dentistry in orthodontics. Since the founding of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine in 1991, sleep specialists and dentists have increasingly worked together to find solutions to help the approximately 50 to 70 million Americans with ongoing sleep disorders (CDC. MMWR Weekly. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5842a2.htm).

Addressing key orthodontic treatment such as airway development, sleep dentistry  is just beginning to gain a level of popularity with a small number of orthodontic practices. It’s a service that offers new hope to patients with sleep disorders and new opportunities for orthodontists seeking practice growth. If sleep dentistry is new to you, you’re probably wondering if it’s even worth exploring within your practice. I get it. Growing your practice is always your No. 1 goal (and has been Levin Group’s core mission for over 35 years), but it’s more comfortable to work with what you already have. When I counsel orthodontists on the best ways to grow their practices, I explain the four core pathways to build their businesses:

  1. Sell more of your existing services to your existing customers.
  2. Sell new services to your existing customers.
  3. Sell your existing services to new customers.
  4. Sell new services to new customers.

The most obvious (and comfortable) paths for orthodontists to take are to sell more existing services (orthodontics) to new or existing customers (patients). However, playing it safe can mean missing out on bigger rewards or, even worse, missing out on the next big thing that will change the direction of orthodontics. Remember when aligners first came on the scene? Most orthodontists balked at the idea of aligner ortho, and many still do. And while we could have a pretty robust debate on the merits of traditional orthodontics versus aligner orthodontics, it’s clear that aligners are here to stay.

General dentists are increasing aligner treatment by approximately 40% each year; aligner companies continue to expand within in the marketplace, and there are a growing number of companies offering direct-to-consumer aligners with or without a doctor appointment. While sleep dentistry may not be as game-changing as aligners have been, I’ve talked with several industry leaders and share their belief that it offers progressive orthodontic practices an excellent opportunity to add an entirely new service and revenue stream.

Keep in mind that like any new service, there will be a learning curve. Remember the whole changing-the-tire scenario? Well, while you’re continuing to run your office, you must master new clinical techniques and understand important business management factors such as where referrals will come from, medical coding rules, insurance coverage, and all of the policies and procedures associated with sleep dentistry. It sounds like a lot, but remember, orthodontics is changing, and adding a new area of dentistry to your service mix is a great way to help set your practice apart in a highly competitive orthodontic field. There is help available to shorten the learning curve. Plus, it can be exciting and invigorating to tackle a new challenge.

If sleep dentistry sounds as though it may be a good addition to your practice, I urge you to start planning sooner than later. Like any new trend, early players will have the advantage of building a brand and reputation that will generate buzz and  increase referrals.

It’s critically important for today’s orthodontic practices to remain focused on increasing the number of patients seeking traditional orthodontics, but it’s also an excellent strategy to add an entirely new service. Change can be risky, and mastering a new service may feel overwhelming, but new service options must be considered in order to keep orthodontic practices successful and growing. Sleep dentistry is one of those options.

On whatever pathway you decide to take, I wish you continued practice success!

Roger P. Levin, DDS

To continue to awaken growth in your orthodontic practice, read Dr. Steven Olmos’ article on signs and treatment of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea here.