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Quickie note from Jason: I first met Dr. Erin Elliott at a Nierman Practice Management course in Orange County, CA around 12 years ago. She was a relative dental sleep neophyte, and I worked for a dental lab. Since that initial encounter, Dr. Elliott has presented all over the country spreading the dental sleep medicine gospel. She has been many dentists’ initial gateway to DSM. Many of her lectures focus on the practical aspects of sleep implementation within a busy general dentistry practice. She definitely walks her talk – bouncing between restorative patients and sleep patients in her busy Post Falls Family Dental and Sleep Better Northwest practices. We used to co-host a podcast together, & you just never know what the future may bring. I’m thankful to count E3 as a friend. Check out some of her upcoming courses here and here.

—Jason Tierney

I’m a dentist, a general dentist to be exact. I don’t do sleep full-time—there are too many patients who need fillings, crowns, and extractions.

Some say it’s impossible to do both. That’s just not true, and I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, anybody can do it.

Want to know my secret sauce? I’ll tell you – MY TEAM!

Ask yourself, “What exactly does the doctor have to do by law?” Or, “What exactly does the doctor have to do for the best patient care?” In my world the answer is, the consult. That’s the time when I help connect the dots for the patient on how their sleep apnea probably affects their life more than they think—things like bruxing, acid reflux, and nocturia—and it’s when I evaluate their airway and anatomy and joint for suitability and type of oral appliance. That’s it. And most of that’s already been done by my sleep apnea coordinator.

Yes, a sleep apnea coordinator. It’s easy to say you can’t have a full-time team member dedicated to sleep because you don’t have enough sleep patients. How can you create the need for a sleep coordinator without a sleep coordinator? Listen to me: You. Need. To. Create. The. Need.

Think of sleep as a separate business in your practice. Give it a startup investment, hire from within, promote a team member to sleep coordinator, and give them six months to make it happen. If they don’t have patients, no problem. You can screen your team members, their families, and your hygiene patients.

They can look at tomorrow’s charts and find patients on high blood pressure or diabetes meds. Find patients with clinical signs of bruxing or who’ve had a night guard previously.

Collect medical insurance cards at the front desk and learn how to do eligibility checks so you can estimate their out-of-pocket cost based on their medical insurance while they’re still in the chair. If they don’t have patients, then they have time to go out and build relationships with medical providers, athletic trainers, dieticians, chiropractors, optometrists, and other potential referral sources. Get creative.

Finally, they’ll have time to build a social media presence, film testimonials, and bring the message directly to the consumer through emotional stories that each patient type and demographic can identify with.

I’m a straight shooter. You may not like directness, but I am here to tell you two mantras in my life. #makeithappen and #FIOS (Figure It Out Stupid—or Silly—I’ll leave that up to you). If you don’t like your situation, change it. Sleep medicine can be done in a general dental office. In fact, sleep must be done for our general dental patients.

Take the risk. Take charge, invest your time and money, and maybe, just maybe, you have to be willing to sacrifice your favorite chairside assistant or hygienist by giving them an opportunity to make a career rather than take a job. They’ll stay with you and your patients’ lives will improve one night at a time while your practice grows one day at a time.


Come hear Dr. Elliott in the flesh when she joins the who’s who of lecturers and panelists at the 2024 Transform Dental Sleep Symposium in Scottsdale, AZ on Feb. 2-3. Click this link to learn more, register you and your team, & take the next step to the practice of your dreams. #MakeItHappen.

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