In the adult sleep medicine field, we grasp the impact of oral appliance therapy on the life of a person. It affects every facet of their being. The fact that several jobs now require a sleep test is helping more patients find out how to be treated, and why.
With pediatric patients, the impact can be even more profound because of their ongoing development. There are so many issues that you can help their parents understand that development is affected. This year my newest grandson was sent home from the hospital with a sleep monitor. Not because he was diagnosed but to alert the parents to any issues. We should follow those children through the developmental phase and continue to monitor and educate them.
- Focus and school performance.
- sports performance
- Accidents (auto, sports, etc.)
- Negative behavior
- Always tired
The effects are not only limited to the affected child, by not being able to sit during school, have friends, or play without fighting.
Many dentists think they are not pediatric, so they just ignore the issues. Is that ethical if you are the main provider for that child? What about Ortho, they take more CBCT scans of children so add the soft tissue of the neck and look for sleep apnea.
What is your role:
General and Pediatric dentists: Screen, educate, triage, prompt treatment/management, and collaboration is the key to success. Even if you do not treat, knowledge of how-to diagnose or simply have the knowledge will allow you to collaborate with a specialist and the medical provider.
- Orthodontists: Screen, Educate, Full management of growth guidance from childhood into adulthood
- Periodontists and Oral surgeons: Screen, performance of surgical assists in the orthodontic and all forms of TMD.
- Managing pediatric airway and sleep requires the interdisciplinary approach that dentists are very well-versed in. For growing kids, management is not a series of linear visits to one provider, then the next. It usually entails visits to multiple providers at the same time. Who will direct the care? Which providers will the child see and when? This IS in the dentist’s wheelhouse, and we are best suited to direct this care. You can have an incredible impact on these people’s lives. Will you heed the call?
You’re sold on the concept now. After sharing this information with my colleagues, they inevitably ask the subsequent three questions:
- How Do I Learn to Do This?
Compared to a decade ago, there are more places to get educated in pediatric airway. We’ve come a long way, but it is still deficient when compared to other continuing education topics like implants or even adult sleep medicine. Many of the education providers in pediatric dentistry are centered on a commercial product or singular technique. When looking for an education provider, it is important to get perspective from the clinical standpoint, e.g., dentists who have been using the product or practicing the technique. Ideally, these dentists are independent practitioners.
No one should deny a child airway therapy. And no one can deny dentistry’s vital role in the provision of pediatric airway therapies.
It’s also crucial to consider how we learn. While something may be resonant the first time, we only retain a minuscule amount of information upon first exposure. This is especially true of new concepts. Seek educational platforms that provide ongoing access to educational materials. The information will be reinforced and take on different meanings as you get real-world experience.
- Is It Worth the Investment?
Implementation is where the rubber of education meets the road of treatment on the path to the always desirable ROI. Attaining a significant ROI requires work from you and your dental team. This is a team sport. You must have buy-in from the entire team – hygienists, assistants, administrative support,
office manager, etc. Without them, you cannot productively do this. It can burn a lot of time and drive down production for the day if you don’t have efficient systems in place.
When considering implementing pediatric airway and sleep therapies in your practice, it is of paramount importance that you consider all the following:
- Who are the team members who will help spearhead this in the practice? Do you have sufficient staff to do this without negatively affecting your general practice?
- How will the team be trained? Like every new product or procedure, successful implementation of pediatric airway and sleep depends on your team being engaged and knowledgeable about how these services fit into the other services that you offer in your practice. Have you allocated the budget and dedicated the time for this? What happens if there is staff turnover? How will staff members be trained? How will offering this service fit into the existing flow of the practice?
- Do you have the support of an external team of healthcare providers to promote the team approach to managing these conditions?
- Is It Sustainable in My Practice?
Incorporating any new procedure into the practice has challenges. To ensure the smoothest pathway to incorporate pediatric airway and sleep, you’ll need:
- Protocols tailored to how your practice operates.
- The cohesive dental team that understands the role of each person in the practice in the rationale for integrating this service into your existing services
- Realistic financial arrangements factor the cost to the practice regarding time, materials, and resources so that the practice stays financially viable while trying to incorporate these services.
- Support a group of like-minded colleagues that have overcome the challenges you’ll face and exchange ideas, and best practices, and share camaraderie.
The field of pediatric airway and sleep is a rapidly growing field that has not yet reached its potential. There is an immense need for providers to help children and their families. It behooves the profession to increase awareness about how dentists can play a role in helping children with these issues through public awareness but also advocacy at the legislative level.
As with many procedures, the limitation for some patients to initiate treatment is financial constraints. Influencing third-party reimbursements for these conditions and services could go a long way to improving the health of the children affected. We are the frontline, the proverbial spearhead. Join Dental Medical Billing to learn how to use Orthodontic Medical Billing. www.dentalmedicalbilling.com
There is a lot of work to be done. Fortunately, there are many dentists. Kids need you. Their families need you. Society needs you. If you are interested in providing pediatric airway and sleep services (screening, early management, treatment, or advocacy), seek a comprehensive education platform focused on the subject ASAP. Join the movement.