Airway is profitable. So, why aren’t more dentists adding it to their practice? To reveal the common reasons why dentists don’t succeed and what you can do differently, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Tracey Nguyễn, co-founder of ASAP Pathway, with advice for overcoming the challenges in this space. Adding airway will help your practice grow — as long as you do it right! To learn how to make airway profitable in your dental practice, listen to Episode 554 of The Best Practices Show!
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Don’t overcomplicate airway dentistry.
You need your team’s support to do airway.
If you can’t find your dream team, create it yourself.
Giving patients “homework” will undermine your expertise.
Expect the worst but know that things will eventually work out.
“I think the big thing that people don’t get is that airway dentistry is not — you don’t take a course, and you’re going to come out making a lot of money from that one course. It’s not like implant dentistry or a composite course where you’re learning an actual skill, and then you’re going to practice it Monday morning. Airway dentistry is more of, think about it like an occlusion course, or more of like a philosophy course. And just like occlusion, there are several different camps. You have to decide what you jive with more, what fits your philosophy. So, I always tell people that comprehensive dentistry is airway dentistry. It’s not different.” (6:09—6:52)
“People try to overcomplicate airway dentistry. You’re still doing dentistry. If someone has an airway problem, and they don’t believe you, and there’s all this dentistry to be done, don’t spend two hours convincing them they have an airway problem. Just do the dentistry. I think that’s the big thing that a lot of dentists forget. We forget to be dentists first. The whole thing with airway dentistry is, understand that there’s an airway component, and understand that your dentistry could potentially make it worse. So, don’t make it worse. It seems so simple. We definitely overcomplicate what airway dentistry is.” (6:54—7:36)
“One of the things I mentioned in my How to Make Airway Profitable is you’re not going to do it without your team’s blessing. We all know this. We go to a course, we come back, and they think that, ‘Okay, they took a weekend course. My dentist is going to be gung-ho for two weeks, and then it’s going to trickle away.’ The thing with airway dentistry, it’s such an emotional impact for you, your significant other, your children, that your team needs to see that. And most likely, someone in your team is suffering from it, or someone in your team knows someone that’s suffering from it. So, once the team has a “why” for themselves, then they can support your why.” (7:49—8:30)
“I remember being with Rick Roblee at a meeting, and he said, ‘If you can’t find your team, make it yourself. If you can’t find these people, then you develop your team.’ So, basically, as a restorative doctor, I’m one of those doctors that I don’t spread the wealth. I have a very strong referral network. That specialist basically gets all of my patients. I have two periodontists and two oral surgeons. And those people, we have a really great connection with. So, my referrals, common sense, you don’t bite off the hand that feeds you. Right? And so, those are the ones that are going to listen to you more and respect you a little bit more. The ones that aren’t buying in, don’t waste your time. They’ll come when they’re ready. I think that’s the thing that we struggle with. Like, we want certain people on our team. But if they’re not ready, they’re not ready. So, then you find someone else that’s willing to listen, and then you grow them. You grow together as a team. That’s how I pretty much developed my network.” (8:52—10:03)
“I have a love-hate with social media. But social media has pretty much built my entire platform. When I think about when I was discovering myself and discovering my why, I was like, ‘Wow, there’s not that much information about this.’ And so, I decided to, ‘Well, I’m going to put it out there.’ I made all my social media pages public. I started blogging about literature reviews. I would basically post a literature blog, post a case blog on social media, and I started to get known. People were messaging me, ‘Hey, I just read this.’ And then, they started connecting with me as the airway specialist or airway dentist. And then, just being real on social media, most of my patients do find me from that. I get a lot of referrals, actually, from other dentists and other medical colleagues. I get referrals from other medical colleagues because I developed my own group, locally. And like I said, you grow it yourself.” (10:50—11:57)
“I’m still learning how to structure it. Because while I am a heavy restorative practice, the new patient worth for a restorative practice is, you get this patient as a new patient, and you get X amount every year. That’s the cost of this new patient because you’re going to see them every year. As a specialist, you’ve got one treatment, and then they go back. So, I’m still learning that. With my team, it’s like, ‘All right, guys. I need more new patients than a GP because I’ve got one shot with one treatment.’ It’s a learning curve. I’m learning things differently and how to communicate with patients.” (12:48—13:26)
“What I will tell anybody, if they’re doing airway, is do not give your patients homework. This is what I did, and I realized, ‘Why am I doing that? I’m supposed to be the expert in this.’ So, do not have all these books in your waiting area and say, ‘You should read this book.’ Do not give your patients books. Do not give your patients things to read because you’re supposed to be the expert. You look in their mouth. You’re supposed to know what’s going on, or suspect what’s going on, and direct them to the right care.” (13:42—14:19)
“As a restorative doctor, we ultimately decide the restorative material we want to use. But we don’t go, ‘I just came from an Ivoclar lecture, and I’m going to use this type of composite. I’m going to give you the MSDS on these three types of composites. Can you go home and research which one you want me to use Monday morning?’ It makes no sense. Right? But we do that with airway. We’re like, ‘You know what? We think you have a breathing problem. We think you have this. Here are some articles that you can read, and here are some literature reviews that you can read.’ No! Patients don’t want that. And so, my number-one thing is, do not give the patient homework. You have to be very confident in what you are seeing and how you think that this patient should be treated.” (14:22—15:15)
“If you’re going to make recommendations in treatment, know what you’re recommending. If you are giving people homework, then you don’t know what you’re recommending. That makes you look like less of an authority, and there’s going to be lack of confidence from a patient standpoint.” (16:40—16:57)
“I do like social media. I think that you have to decide who is going to do that social media for you. I definitely think that you want to be careful about oversharing. But I think that patients do look for social media for content. That’s pretty much how I got started with it, finding me. They search for you based on that.” (17:29—17:57)
“I do [social media] myself, and it’s very exhausting. But I think when you do it yourself, it’s very real and it’s very organic, and patients connect with that. Patients know when it’s not you.” (18:08—18:22)
“I think social media can be good and bad. Bad, in the sense that it can really mess with your psyche with the whole likes, ‘Do they like me?’ The more popular you get, you’re also going to get people that don’t like you. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a negative review or a negative post, and it hits you to the core. So, you have to remember that when you put yourself out there, you’re going to take the good and the bad.” (18:59—19:32)
“I got accredited in 2015, and that was my first drop. It probably took me about two to three years to get back up again. So, I will say, with anyone that’s debating on dropping insurances, just expect the worst. But it’s going to be fine. Tough it out. Figure out your why and make sure the entire office understands your why, because that’s going to keep you going.” (20:54—21:31)
“The office that I worked with when I came out [of school], what I loved about them is, there were three doctors in there, and one of them was a prosthodontist. So, while I was getting paid pennies, I learned a lot as a dentist. And I think that’s very valuable, that growth and having that mentorship, someone teaching me a little bit about the business, and then discovering what kind of dentist you want to be. Because I don’t think you really know until you start diving into it and you’re like, ‘Okay, I don’t know if I like this. I like this.’ And then, you figure it out.” (27:12—27:41)
“From an airway dentistry component, you’re doing more dentistry. So, it’s not really an increase of fee, you’re just doing more dentistry. You’re looking at these arches. You’re rounding out the arches. You’re doing more bonding. You’re doing comprehensive dentistry to try to not make the airway worse. So, that, as a whole, you’re doing more dentistry.” (28:17—28:40)
“There are other procedures that you can add in your wheelhouse. One of the things is orthodontics, Invisalign. Most people are already doing Invisalign. Well, now, you’re setting it up for restorative. Now, you’re setting it up to make the airway better. You’re increasing the oral volume space for the tongue. I’m doing Invisalign on younger kids, so we’re catching them a lot younger. So, that’s an extra tool that I’m doing. Laser therapy treatments. I was already doing lasers, crown lengthening in soft tissue, hard tissue. Now, I’m looking at frenectomies, tongue-ties. I’m looking at the soft palate like NightLase. So, there are definitely extra procedures that you can do that pertain to airway to add into your wheelhouse.” (28:42—29:31)
“You’re going away from single-tooth dentistry and being overall comprehensive care. I think that’s the goal with occlusion courses, and that’s the goal with airway. It’s comprehensive care. Get away from single-tooth dentistry. Even get away from quadrant dentistry.” (30:15—30:30)
“When we take any of these large comprehensive classes at Kois or Spear, we’re trying to take a step back from single-tooth dentistry and then go into comprehensive care, because that’s where the money is. It’s how much you treatment plan. And you’re not doing it, obviously, for the money, but you’re being more comprehensive in your care.” (30:56—31:15)
“Like any occlusion course, the profitability comes. It’s more about the dentistry that you start treatment planning. So, don’t think of it as, ‘I just took an implant course. I’m going to place five implants.’ It’s not an immediate relief like that. It’s basically changing your mindset. Think of it as an occlusion course. As you start to see more of it, as you start treatment planning these cases, the profit comes. The key is knowing how to treatment plan these cases.” (33:50—34:24)
“We have to make dentistry practical because that’s the only way we’re going to do it. We’re overcomplicating everything. Just make it practical and make it fun.” (36:00—36:13)
2:31 Dr. Nguyễn’s background.
5:39 Don’t overcomplicate airway dentistry.
7:38 You can’t do it without your team.
8:33 Build your core team and network.
10:24 Building your network with social media.
13:28 Don’t give your patients homework.
17:18 Do your own social media and don’t overshare.
20:37 How long will it take to start making a profit?
23:41 Dr. Nguyễn’s insurance journey.
26:41 Figure out who you are.
27:42 Airway means doing more dentistry.
29:32 Go back to the principles.
31:17 The future for Dr. Nguyễn.
33:35 Last thoughts on profitability in airway.
34:53 More about Dr. Nguyễn’s courses and how to get in touch.
Dr. Tracey Nguyễn, DDS, FAGD, AAACD Bio:
Dr. Tracey Nguyễn, a.k.a., “Dr. Tracey,” received her DDS, Magna Cum Laude at the Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia. She pledges to treat each patient with the highest standard of oral health care.
Dr. Nguyễn is very involved in the local, state, and regional organizations, i.e., Loudoun County Dental Study Group, Northern Virginia Dental Association, Virginia Dental Association, and the American Dental Association. She is a member of the American Academy of Laser Dentistry, the World Clinical Laser Institute, and the International Congress of Implantologists (ICOI). She understands the importance of lasers in dentistry and was one of the first doctors that introduced the hard tissue laser dentistry in Loudoun County. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of General Dentistry. She thus understands that providing great smiles and excellent oral health are the result of going above and beyond basic requirements.
Dr. Nguyễn serves as an editor for the AGD peer-reviewed research manuscripts. She also has continued to advance her dental and clinical expertise by completing thousands of hours of advanced training at the most prestigious dental institutions across the country.