Episode #274: General Dentistry & Sleep: How They Go Together

education leadership the best practices show podcast treatment planning Feb 12, 2021

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Episode #274: General Dentistry & Sleep: How They Go Together 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:


[email protected]


ABOUT DR. ELLIOTT - I grew up in Southern California, but went away to a small NAIA school in Western New York where I played collegiate soccer and graduated summa cum laude. I graduated Creighton Dental School in the top 5 of my class-- not bad if I do say so myself!

After school I settled in North Idaho and began my dentistry career. I have a passion for Dental Sleep Medicine, Short Term Orthodontics and integrating CAD/CAM and cone-beam imaging into a general dentistry practice. I regularly lecture on these topics and I would love to help you extend these services to your clients!

I’m an active member of my local American Dental Association, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and I was the president and a diplomate of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy. I’m kind of into DSM, in case you hadn’t noticed.

I teach 2-day sleep apnea courses with 3D-Dentists and Dr. Tarun Agarwal. I also privately coach practices about sleep! Drop me a line, I’d love to learn more about how I can help your practice.

DAILY LIFE - Free time? What’s that? Just kidding-- I spend my free time with my stay-at-home husband, Tom, and my two sons. I love to spend time with friends, golfing, traveling, playing soccer, reading and serving my community.

I am dedicated to sharing the tools I’ve developed and honed over my years in the industry. I know these tools will help your practice succeed. Contact me! I’d love to chat about speaking at one of your events or holding a seminar for your team.

TESTIMONIALS - Dr. Erin Elliott was a pleasure to work with as a speaker. She is timely, efficient and extremely responsive in communication leading up to her speaking engagement at Dental Maverick Summit 2018. I contacted her in early 2018 and requested a topic from her which she had not done before. Deadlines for the presentation including rough drafts and previews were provided and she met all of them with ample time. Despite a brand new topic and her first time presenting this material, her presentation at Maverick Summit was one of the top rated presentations of the day. She has a natural, fun and engaging presentation style that keeps the audience attentive. Her tone is both informative and light which resulted in many laughs throughout the presentation. If you are looking for a speaker that lives up and exceeds your expectations, look no further than Dr. Erin Elliott. --Tuan Pham

Dr. Erin Elliott is one of those dynamic speakers that hits all the elements I’m looking for in a presenter. She is funny, sets a good pace, and most importantly, she gives valuable content that I can implement in my practice on Monday morning. Not only does she give me the information but she is happy to share any forms, notes, etc so that I don’t have to recreate the wheel. Erin has a passion for sharing information and bettering our community as a profession. She is real and accessible and I am so grateful that I was introduced to her. -- Kristine Aadland, DMD

Energetic. Informative. Eye opening. Dr. Elliott possesses a palpable passion for sleep apnea that grabs the attention of any audience and encourages the listener to jump on board. By clearly defining the signs and symptoms of the disorder to the actual process of treating it within a dental practice, Dr. Elliott simplifies what has traditionally been thought of as a complicated realm of dentistry. Her dynamic personality and way of teaching was just the encouragement needed to start incorporating sleep medicine into my dental practice. -- Dr. Erin Green

Dr. Erin Elliott changed the way I looked at treating airway and sleep apnea issues in my practice. The biggest change her teaching brought to my practice was how to implement standard protocols for screening and identifying those most at risk of the disease. In less than 3 months we realized a significant portion of our patient base was at risk; this motivated the team to take an active role in helping those suffering from this deadly condition. I couldn't have done this without Erin's help and guidance and would recommend everyone practicing dentistry to attend one of her courses! -- Dr. John Pasicznyk

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