Are you a dentist looking to provide oral appliance therapy (OAT) for sleep apnea patients, but feeling stuck because you can’t diagnose them yourself? So many courses and conference lectures tell you to develop relationships with local sleep physicians—and you absolutely should—but maybe you just haven’t had success with that.
These obstacles don’t have to be nonstarters! There are more options available than you may realize. Here we’ll explore the various options for every kind of dental practice, regardless of the patient’s insurance coverage. To get “unstuck,” you simply must understand your options for sleep testing.
A dentist-ordered sleep test
The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine’s (AADSM) 2020 position1 states, “It is within the scope of practice for a qualified dentist … to order or administer home sleep apnea tests.” Despite this, many states restrict dentists from ordering sleep tests. These regulations are due to a combination of factors, such as professional scope of practice, state licensing laws, and medical board regulations. In states where dentists are permitted to order sleep tests, specific criteria and requirements often must be met, including additional training or certification in sleep medicine and collaboration with medical professionals.
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The regulations surrounding dentists’ authority to order sleep tests are the subject of ongoing debates about professional scope of practice and the need for interdisciplinary collaboration.2 The field continues to evolve, and regulations may change based on emerging evidence and advocacy.
If you practice in a state that allows dentists to order sleep testing, educate yourself on that state’s payor policies and criteria. If you are not sure or have questions, contact your state dental board. When sending a sleep test order directly to a local sleep center, include patient information, your professional credentials, date of prescription, diagnosis or clinical indication justifying the test, type of sleep test, desired duration of the test, and any additional instructions. This ensures proper identification, validity of the prescription, and clear communication between the ordering provider and the sleep center.
Enroll in a national drop-ship service
Dentists can leverage the convenience and accessibility of national drop-ship telemedicine/home sleep testing (HST) service to enhance their sleep medicine practice. You might choose this option if your state will not allow you to order a test or if you want an easy, transparent solution that is more in your control.
In these situations, you don’t need to collect any payment or manage insurance information for testing. Companies like Ognomy3 or SleepMedRx4 provide telemedicine and testing services through a mix of insurance and cash pay. With this pathway, either the dentist or the patient will enroll through an online portal. Once enrolled, the patient will be prompted to schedule a telemedicine visit with a sleep physician.
During this visit, the patient will be evaluated for sleep apnea, and the appropriate test will be ordered for shipment to the patient’s home. The patient can then perform the sleep test in the privacy of their own home. The collected data is securely transmitted to a sleep physician for interpretation, diagnosis, and prescription for appropriate therapy—most likely OAT or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Both the patient and referring provider will be kept informed of the patient’s status throughout the process via an online portal.
Sleep coaching services
If you don’t have the time or support team to manage patient education and tracking of patients through the testing process, consider a sleep coaching and patient management service, like Sleep Better NYC’s HST Management.5 The coaching team will engage with your patient and keep you informed to make sure you get all the documentation needed to treat the patient with OAT.6
It is well-established that about 80% of patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are undiagnosed. This means you most likely have untreated snoring and sleep apnea patients in your practice who could benefit from treatment. By taking the first step and getting your patients tested using one of the options above, you can make a huge difference in their lives while simultaneously growing your dental sleep medicine business.
- Schwartz D, Adame M, Addy N, et al. American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine position on the scope of practice for dentists ordering or administering home sleep apnea tests. J Dent Sleep Med. 2020;7(4). doi:10.15331/jdsm.7156
- Copeland D. Sleep disorders and oral health: what’s the connection? DentistryIQ. June 15, 2022. https://www.dentistryiq.com/personal-wellness/article/14278124/sleep-disorders-and-oral-health-whats-the-connection
- Say goodnight to sleep apnea. Ognomy. https://www.ognomy.com/
- Healthcare providers. SleepMedRx. https://www.sleepmedrx.com/sleep-solutions/healthcare-providers
- What can virtual coaching do for your dental sleep practice? Dental Sleep Coach. Sleep Better NYC. https://www.dentalsleepcoach.com/
- DeNike TP. Bringing your dental sleep practice to the next level: It takes a village. DentistryIQ. March 20, 2023. https://www.dentistryiq.com/dentistry/article/14291679/bringing-your-dental-sleep-practice-to-the-next-level-it-takes-a-village