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The Best Practices Show - ACT Dental EPISODE 274, 12th February 2021
General Dentistry & Sleep: How They Go Together with Dr. Erin Elliott
00:00:00 00:47:23

General Dentistry & Sleep: How They Go Together with Dr. Erin Elliott

General Dentistry & Sleep: How They Go Together

Episode #274 with Dr. Erin Elliott

Snoring is a problem that almost everyone denies having. In fact, most people don't realize they do it, or how potentially life-threatening it can be! Today, Kirk Behrendt brings in Dr. Erin Elliott, who warns that sleep apnea is no longer an “old, fat man’s disease.” It can affect people of all ages, shapes, and sizes — even children — and it can go undiagnosed for years. So, how can dentists help? To learn how and why you should implement sleep apnea treatment into your dental practice, listen to Episode 274 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

  • Dentists are on the front lines for people’s health.
  • Sleep is important for overall health and wellness.
  • Learn to screen for and treat sleep apnea.
  • Medical insurance will pay for oral appliances.
  • Help patients realize they need help. It will increase compliance!
  • But don't be too pushy.


  • “As soon as I see someone’s anatomy, I'm like, ‘You have sleep apnea,’ because it’s not an old, fat man’s disease. And unfortunately, in America, that's how people look at it, is an old, fat man’s disease. And I treat young, petite people, healthy people, all the time.” (09:33—09:49)
  • “It’s not voodoo. Oxygen is not anything crazy to get to this kid. Sleep is not crazy to want to achieve. So, I don't understand why there's so much resistance. (10:50—11:02)
  • “The myth is that medical insurance doesn't pay for oral appliances. They do if you have the right documentation. The other myth is that they don't pay well — which is often true . . . And the third thing is that you can’t do sleep without medical insurance.” (18:30—19:01)
  • “We get people to sign up for aligners every day. Comprehensive care, cash fee, insurance doesn't help, $5,000 to $6,000. Why aren't we able to present an oral appliance that could improve the quality of their life and even extend their life for $2,500 and get them to accept treatment? And it’s because people are so reliant on medical insurance . . . That's the first question they ask. They don't care about my certifications and initials after my name. Their first question is, ‘How much is it? Do you bill medical?’” (19:20—20:01)
  • “It’s the primary care, the nurse practitioners, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors — there are so many people that are in the trenches with people that need help — chiropractors, naturopaths. So many people need our help, and these people are exposed to them and interact with them every day. They just don't look for it and don't know what to look for. And there's some fear in the medical world because they don't know enough about the appliance. So, then, they just don't bring it up.” (23:14—23:47)
  • “Where the medical world really misses is connecting with the patient, finding their pain points and helping them realize they need help. You'll get far more compliance when they understand the disease that we’re trying to treat.” (27:52—28:07)
  • “So many orthodontists think, ‘Oh, no. We’ll just wait till they're 12.’ Let's just wait till they're done growing and their sutures are sealed, and they’ve been sick this whole time. Why are we not expanding and intervening in growing jaws earlier? That, I'll never understand.” (30:47—31:02)
  • “There are so many things in the way that our lifestyle of convenience exacerbates inflammation, tonsil enlargement and obligatory mouth breathing, no filtration of bacteria, ear infections. It’s just a bad downward cycle, because once those tonsils are so large and they can't breathe through their nose, there's no chance to catch up.” (33:11—33:36)
  • “Complexity is the enemy of implementation.” (45:26—45:29)


  • Dr. Elliott’s background. (03:30—08:02)
  • Why sleep apnea is a big topic in dentistry. (08:28—09:49)
  • Children are often undiagnosed. (10:30—12:10)
  • How to monetize this. (12:41—13:46)
  • How general dentistry and sleep work together. (14:07—14:50)
  • Having a “sleep champion” in the office. (15:10—17:36)
  • Medical insurance misconceptions. (18:05—21:08)
  • The evolution of this topic in dentistry. (21:28—23:49)
  • Help patients understand the disease. (24:56—28:55)
  • Biggest mistakes and lessons learned. (29:08—29:40)
  • Coaching parents to diagnose children. (30:39—31:33)
  • What exacerbates this disease? (32:39—33:36)
  • Sleep apnea in the future of dentistry. (33:50—37:57)
  • Is there a solid scheme for diagnosis and treatment? (38:17—39:35)
  • What does Dr. Elliott do? (40:04—42:44)
  • Dr. Elliott’s website. (42:59—43:45)
  • Last thoughts and words of wisdom. (44:04—45:46)

Get in Touch with Dr. Elliott: