Listen to your dental patients to learn more about sleep disorders

March 28, 2013
Thorough data collection is important in dentistry; it’s even more important in dental sleep medicine. Dr. Steve Carstensen says to find the motivator for your patients, connect it with your expert knowledge, and bring them along the journey of self-management.
Thorough data collection is important in dentistry; it’s even more important in dental sleep medicine. Treating sleep disordered breathing requires patients to use a device you make. Connecting the action with individual patient motivations will enhance success of any behavioral therapy. By asking questions until you know why the patient is seeking care at this time is an important factor that can greatly assist or greatly jeopardize success.RELATED |Do you ask your dental patients if they snore?RELATED | What dental professionals need to know about dental sleep medicine Don’t assume the patient cares about their health — many people only want to minimize bed partner complaints. It’s equally risky to focus only on snoring; you may be talking with someone from a family where every male member died young and he’s read that sleep apnea has a cardiac effect. Bottom line: know your patient and you will gain keys to applying your knowledge.What do they really want fixed? This question is one of the most important ones to address, because this is your patient’s means of measuring return on investment. If the main goal is to stop snoring, it’s your job to help them understand the finish line is not silent sleep, which they may get to before the apnea is fully controlled. Some patients will be very aware of sleep parameters and will want to test themselves repeatedly until all vestiges of sleep disordered breathing are eliminated. I’ve had plenty of patients tell me they need to sleep quietly for trips with friends or red-eye flights. Find the motivator for them, connect it with your expert knowledge, and bring them along the journey of self-management.Why therapy now? It’s very common for a patient to receive prior treatment, in which they have been prescribed a therapy, and end up in your office quite some time after the sleep disorder diagnosis because the therapy didn’t work or they didn’t use it. It’s important to ask them about what’s different now. One of the most common reasons is, again, the bed partner finally getting through to your patient. Other reasons can stem from upcoming vacations or health problems they want to understand better.Fear of failing? Thankfully, the use of the words “failed CPAP therapy” is becoming less and less common. Who wants to be a failure? As we meet people and discover what therapies have been tried, many have found CPAP to be inappropriate for them, or they could not find a way to be "adherent" to that means of treating their apnea. Unused machines are universally ineffective. Examine your language and find positive phrases to describe prior efforts and new strategies.Money? Money matters to most patients, physicians, and anyone else involved in a sleep disorder diagnosis. When you start talking about what you can do and oral appliance therapy, the dollar signs may get astronomical in your patient’s head. It’s very likely their money concerns stem from inadequate insurance coverage or that they have an outrageously high deductible that could be a barrier to taking that leap toward sleep success. It’s extremely important to let them talk about their problems in order to see the true value of your solution. Finding any way you can to keep therapy “affordable” will pay off.What are their stories? Their stories are about how their lives are being affected by their sleep disorder. Bed partner reports are by far the most frequent motivating factor; get your patient to talk about their story and you will get the glimpse into motivation. I’ve heard many stories, from exile to the guest room to embarrassment on family trips to divorce. Let’s help these people before they resort to building separate master suites! For more information about Dr. Steve Carstensen, visit his website.Reprinted with permission from Spear Education.