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As with most issues in the world, we can probably get further if we first acknowledge the things we have in common. Sure, there are differences, too, but that’s what makes life interesting.

Dental sleep medicine is kinda like that. It has much in common with general dentistry. You rely on your team to make things happen, and so the team had better be strong. It’s the same with DSM. The responsibilities change, but everyone has a role, and they need to perform at a high level, or the ejection seat will launch them elsewhere.

You already refer patients to specialists such as periodontists and oral surgeons. With DSM, you’ll usually be referring to physicians. Your patient health history forms ask about the history of tobacco use. You conduct oral cancer exams as the standard of care. If you see anything concerning, you refer for a biopsy. So, why wouldn’t it be the standard of care to ask about sleep on your health history forms, conduct a visual screening for SDB, and refer for a sleep test as warranted?

Before you start citing outdated hearsay from your golf buddy who heard something from someone at a study club five years ago that DSM is outside your scope of practice, let me assure you that you, as a general dentist, can and (according to the ADA) should screen your patients for SDB. And when it’s appropriate, you should treat them, too.

This isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, and it needn’t be a situation where you sell your practice and go all-in on this sleep deal. You don’t have to abandon hygiene checks tomorrow so you can get triple board-certified in sleep. When you bought a CBCT unit, you didn’t get accredited as a radiology tech before taking a scan. No, you took some courses. You learned. You got hands-on experience. You learned some more. And you kept doing it until you achieved proficiency. The more you did, the more proficient you became. The more proficient you became, the more prolific you became. The more prolific you became, the more you enjoyed it. And the more you enjoyed it, the more profitable it became.

As Dr. John Tucker says, “Dental sleep medicine isn’t hard. It’s different.”


Speaking of Dr. John Tucker, he’s just been announced as one of the esteemed presenters at the inaugural TRANSFORM DENTAL SLEEP SYMPOSIUM being held February 2-3, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Tuition increases $100 per ticket on August 31st so get registered today & take advantage of the huge discount on the designated room block at the brand spankin’ new Hilton North Scottsdale at Cavasson where the average high temperature in February is in the 70s!

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