The Biggest Mistake Practices Make When Adding Airway Dentistry (And How to Avoid It)

September 23, 2021

Driven Dental’s own Charles Biami recently had the privilege of appearing on a webinar with Avi Weisfogel all about airway dentistry. Charles and Avi discussed the ins and outs for dental practices beginning to offer airway, including how to market them. Because dentists worked hard to begin offering a new, high-value procedure, they typically need their airway dentistry to pay off as soon as possible

Although the process toward becoming a profitable airway practice can take a few months, many dentists make a huge mistake that lengthens the process. This mistake costs them airway leads who never commit to becoming airway patients. It comes up during the consultation process, or “chair time” as some dentists call it. It also happens during conversations with existing patients who come in for routine dentistry. Perhaps you’ve even done it before, in the past. Want to know what it is?

The Mistake: Dentists “Jump the Gun” by Offering the Solution Too Quickly.

Many dentists and hygienists who work in an airway-focused practice can quickly spot a patient (or prospective patient) exhibiting signs and symptoms of an airway issue. When this happens, it’s natural for them to talk with the patients about what other symptoms they might be experiencing. With just a few questions, they immediately recognize that a sleep dentistry solution could help the patient.

What do they do? Because these dentists and hygienists know how life-changing it can be for a patient to find a solution to a sleep issue, they often jump straight to “the solution.” Many go deep into both the process and the solutions available to help the patient. Some go deep into the technical aspects of how everything works.

Moving this fast confuses and alienates the patient. Even patients who come in with airway concerns are often not ready to move forward right away. And patients who are in your chair for other reasons aren’t often even expecting to talk with their dentist about sleep medicine.

In either case, offering a solution too soon comes across like pushy (and, frankly, a foreign concept). Remember, they aren’t even sure that they struggle with sleep apnea. They certainly aren’t aware of how the problem could be solved by a dentist. They’re used to solutions for this kind of thing coming from general practitioners.

The Solution: Your Plan to Avoid “Jumping the Gun”

Because we understand the problem well, we feel tempted to place the solution before it. However, this is a surefire way to reduce our case acceptance rate. 

Instead, dentists should follow this simple plan to make sure their formal and informal airway consultations bring the best results:

1. Take time to understand WHY patients are in your office to begin with.

If you’ve offered airway for any length of time, then you have a good understanding of sleep apnea and how to solve the problem. But your patients may not. You have to treat every new person coming into your office as a fresh case. Everybody has a unique story and personality, and you have to make them feel heard.

Common stories involve falling behind in work or school, feeling fatigued during the day, or annoying relatives and roommates with stories. But each person has their own unique experience that they will want to share with you. Don’t act like you’ve heard it all before, because then the person you’re talking to will feel devalued as an individual.

2. Meet them where they’re at, not where you want them to be.

Treat every consultation you have like a blank slate. Some patients will come to you aware of their problem but not aware of the possible solutions. Other patients will be in for routine dentistry and possibly aren’t ready for the conversation.

After taking the time to understand why each patient came to you, meet them where they are from a need and knowledge perspective.

This is one of the biggest challenges dentists struggle with when they first start offering airway. They know the problem and see symptoms in a patient and feel tempted to rush the problem along. After all, they know they can perform a procedure that adds years to their life. They want the patient to know about it.

But don’t rush it. Join them on their journey toward learning about your solution by helping them articulate the problem.

3. Learn how to articulate their problem using storytelling.

A fantastic way to meet your patients where they’re at, and make them feel understood, is to take advantage of the power of storytelling.

Tell them a story about a patient that aligns with their story, and they’ll know that you understand them. Humans are wired to make decisions not based on strong rationale, but emotions. Nothing evokes emotion quite like a well-told story. This will also make them more receptive to hearing the solution you offer. 

If you want help making your new airway treatment profitable, or just want coaching on how to talk about airway with your patients, then book a FREE strategy call with us today. At the very least, you’ll walk away more knowledgeable about marketing and better equipped for consultations.


Stop chasing unqualified leads and wasting your valuable chairtime. Learn how to fill your operatories with patients who are pre-qualified and serious about moving forward with your high-value treatment.


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Stop chasing unqualified leads and wasting your valuable chairtime. Learn how to fill your operatories with patients who are pre-qualified and serious about moving forward with your high-value treatment.