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How to Choose a Sleep Course

by Avi Weisfogel

I remember when I was convinced by a Pulmonologist friend to take a course in sleep medicine. The year was 1998. I was just about to graduate from dental school and never heard of sleep apnea and could not fathom what it had to do with dentistry. "Sleep Apnea is going to be HUGE in the dental world," she told me. Well if it was going to be HUGE I needed to find out what it was about, so I started looking for a course to take on Dental Sleep Medicine.

Finding a course on a specific subject was not so easy back then. The Internet was in its infancy stage and it was certainly not the place to go to find courses for dentists. I had to use good old fashioned methods to find a course. I looked in the back of the dental magazines, I called the Local Dental Association and I called the ADA and found out about an organization that was formed to help dentists assimilate into the world of sleep medicine. The group was called the Sleep Disorders Dental Society (this group is now known as the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine). Once I got their contact information, I called the SDDS and they gave me a list of the few courses that were offered. It turns out that a course was about to take place right near my house in New Jersey and my journey into Dental Sleep Medicine began there.

Dr. Keith Thornton gave the course. It was a two-day course, which taught me a lot about the science of sleep and what we could do as dentists to help treat this disease. We spent a day plus on science and a couple of hours with the TAP (Thornton Adjustable Positioner) appliance. We were also told there were approximately 40 million plus patients that were suffering with undiagnosed sleep apnea. After the course, we were deemed ready to treat Sleep Apnea patients.

With the amount of patients available for treatment I was expecting a windfall of patients. Now I can tell you, since the day I decided to go to dental school, my goal was to be a different kind of dentist. I did not want to be the typical drill and fill dentist. I wanted to stand out. So when I had a sleep patient referred to me for an appliance, in my first week of private practice, I just knew that sleep was going to be the way I was going to stand out. As my wife always says, “Man plans and God laughs." Even though I “decided” sleep was going to be my way of standing out, it was more than 6 months until the next sleep patient walked through my door.

With my plan not exactly working out the way I had envisioned it, I did what I thought would help me succeed in sleep. I looked for more education on the subject. I assumed sleep was like everything else in dentistry, if I wanted to succeed, all I needed to do was become more educated on the subject. So I looked for other courses in the sleep world. The next course I could find was the annual SDDS meeting. The course itself was one case study after another, all on which centered on the percentage of successful oral appliance cases. Each lecture showed a study, that consisted of treating X amount of patients with oral appliances. The goal of each study was to prove that OAT (Oral Appliance Therapy) could be as successful as CPAP, given the right circumstances.

During one of the lectures, the lecturer asked the crowd, "how many of you are treating more than 4 patients a month?" Out of the 50 or so dentists in attendance maybe one or two raised their hands. I was shocked, after all my purpose in attending this course, was to find out what I needed to do in order to treat more patients. Two courses in and I still had no clue how to turn sleep apnea into a business. Not one dentist at either course in attendance was seeing more than 10 patients a month. I figured this had to be a mistake, so I looked for more courses and hoped to find more people who were doing what I wanted to do. After all no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Over the next two years, I took 5 more courses on Dental Sleep Medicine, figuring someone out there had to be experiencing some level of success. It was only after that twoyear period I came to the following conclusion, what I was looking for did not exist! Even though each course was taught by a different instructor, all 7 of the courses I took, were essentially THE SAME EXACT COURSE. Each course had a day and a half of science, and hands-on experience with whatever appliance company was sponsoring the course. Then came the marketing plan (and yes, each one of them had the same exact marketing plan). Go out and meet all the sleep doctors and sleep related personnel in your area, let them know that you do oral appliances and then get ready for a stampede of patients. Needless to say this did not happen.

Now I know I am getting off topic as the title of this article is "How to Choose the Right Sleep Course" for you. However I find that in order to accomplish anything in the world of sleep, you need to understand the history. After all, those of us who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

As I said, from 1988-2000 I took a total of 7 sleep courses. Why 7 you ask? Those were the only seven I could find. Here I am now, 20 years later, and one thing is for sure, there is no shortage of dental sleep courses out there. Most of us are bombarded with emails about sleep courses every day. Each of these courses promises to be the answer to the question I was dying to get the answer to 20 years ago. "Add $250,000 a year by treating sleep patients" promises one course. "Add Sleep to your practice and retire 10 years earlier" promises another. In fact, there are multiple courses every single week in Dental Sleep Medicine, each of which advertises to be the best course since sliced bread, not to mention the only course you need to succeed. So with many courses out there, how do you choose the one that is right for you?

The Guide to Deciding Which Sleep Course to Take

In order to decide which course is right for you, you need a clear picture of what you are hoping to accomplish.

Let’s look at the three common scenarios. Chances are one of these three scenarios will describe what you are looking for and will help guide you to the right course.

Doctor #1 is looking to learn about sleep and find out how he can help. He just wants to be able to treat the patient that comes into his office, asking about a sleep appliance. The right choice for Doctor #1 – Any course in America.

Courses that teach you science and how to make an appliance, are a dime a dozen and are given at a city (or computer) near you any given week. What’s amazing is that these courses are almost exactly the same courses as the ones I took twenty years ago.

Options for Dentist #1 include the annual courses that are given by the AADSM or the ASBA (my preferred organization as I believe they put dentists and physicians on the same plane). Doctor #1 will learn all the basic sleep science and will learn how to make an appliance. A good idea for this doctor, would be to join up as a basic member in one of those organizations.

Likely Result for Doctor #1 – he will most likely treat between one to ten patients per year with oral appliances and he might get paid for a few of them. Eventually, due to the frustration of not getting paid, this dentist gives up on sleep.

Doctor #2 wants to do more than just learn about sleep. He wants to treat all the patients in his practice and he wants to become the guy that the doctors in town refer their cases to. This doctor has probably already made some appliances, he may or may not have gotten paid for them and he has probably taken at least one course.

The perfect course for this dentist is any of the courses that I mentioned above. They are the courses that advertise that you will add 250K in revenue or the ones that promise you will retire early by treating sleep patients. You can find these courses almost anywhere. The courses are most likely taught by somewhat knowledgeable instructors, who most likely have not achieved any more success in sleep than the dentists sitting in the crowd. Most of these courses are designed to get you to buy a particular product or use a certain oral appliance.

Likely Result – Doctor #2 will see between 0-4 patients per month. Most of his patients are referred to him from a sleep physician or sleep lab. Due to the lack of documentation, he is likely to be reimbursed between 1-2 thousand dollars per appliance, if at all. This scenario makes up 90% of all the dentists who are interested in practicing dental sleep medicine on a daily basis.

Doctor # 3 wants to be the go to guy for oral appliances in his town. He wants to see 20 or more patients per month and wants to get paid properly for all of them. He may or may not have taken a sleep course but he is not interested in being average. He is willing to do what it takes to succeed in the world of sleep.

The right choice for Doctor #3 is The IAOS Reveal 2.0. You know what they say, if you want to do something right do it yourself. Well after taking all the sleep courses I could find and not getting the answers I was looking for, I knew that the only way to guarantee success was to actually invent the wheel. So I did what any sane dentist would do (insert sarcasm here), I walked away from a huge general dentistry practice to explore the world of sleep medicine.

I spent 3 years talking to all the people in the world of sleep and came up with the following conclusion – the world of sleep is broken. It is impossible to succeed in sleep following the common game plan taught. After three years of banging my head against the wall, I came to recognize all the problems in the world of sleep and more importantly came up with creative and legal ways to fix them. The best part of this solution was it created a win-win-win situation. As a result of all this hard work, every single person in the sleep world got more of what they were looking for (and I was the only one looking for oral appliances).

Referring doctors got a simple easy program, which helped their patients and created ancillary revenue for their practice. Sleep doctors got more interpretations and more sleep patients to help fill their practice. Sleep labs became filled to capacity with a six-week waiting list to boot. DME companies got more CPAP patients. My company got a lot of unlimited stream of appliance patients.

After working out all the kinks, I decided it was time to share this information with other dentists and created the world’s only BUSINESS COURSE FOR SLEEP MEDICINE. Like all courses, the course does teach the basics as well but only the parts necessary for dentists to know (no filler).

The course has adapted over the years and is now called The Reveal 2.0. The course consists of four different ways for you to see 20 or more sleep patients per month, all of whom have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, have been preauthorized by the insurance for an oral appliance and come to your office with all the documentation needed to get the highest possible reimbursement. The Reveal 2.0 is a two-and-a-half day course that takes place in a different city every month. The course is taught by the instructors of The International Academy of Sleep. To register for the course go to iaosleep. org/events or call us at 908-258-0341.

Likely result for Doctor #3 – after attending the Reveal 2.0, Doctor #3 understands everything he needs to do in order to succeed in the world of sleep. The doctor will know the steps he needs to take to ensure an endless flow of sleep patients each and every month. He will know what he needs to do to ensure the highest reimbursement possible. Attendees of the course will also learn what not to waste their time with in the world of sleep. If doctor #3 is a good implementer, he can see 20 or more patients every month within six months of attending this course. If they are really good and dedicate 4-6 hours a week on this project, they will quickly move to the top 3% of all sleep dentists.

To summarize, there are a lot of courses out there. There are a lot of great instructors out there. If you are looking to learn the science only there are many choices. If you want to be an average sleep dentist, there are tons of courses for you. If you want to dominate the world of sleep, then there is really only one choice, The Reveal 2.0 by The International Academy of Sleep.

If you are interested in learning more, head out to the International Academy of Sleep Reveal 2.0 coming soon to a city near you. For more information check us out at iaosleep.org and click on the events page.

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