Paul Van Walleghem, DDS, has been with the American Sleep & Breathing Academy (ASBA) from the start. As credentialing director for the ASBA, Van Walleghem has shepherded numerous dentists to Diplomate status, a crucial step in starting or cementing key relationships with sleep physicians.
“Physicians want to see that credential,” says Van Walleghem, owner of Pointe Dental Group, with Michigan locations in Gross Pointe Farms and Shelby Township. “That’s how you start relationships with physicians. If you just call them up and announce that you make oral appliances, it does not work well.”
As president of the American Board of Sleep and Breathing (www.abosb.org), Van Walleghem’s Board of Directors are well qualified to bestow diplomate status on behalf of the ASBA.
In practice for 32 years, Van Walleghem took his first sleep-related course in 1991 in Boston. Led by a physician who invented a tongue retaining device, the course detailed the ways in which oral appliances, very much in their infancy, could solve sleep apnea problems.
“Today, people are still getting a lot of misinformation,” says Van Walleghem, who leads a multi-specialty practice where many opinions are readily available. “Dentists are being told they can make millions of dollars in dental sleep medicine, but that’s not why we should be doing it. It’s a lot of work, and if you do it properly, it involves a lot of follow-up and a lot of letters to physicians. You must charge a reasonable amount, but not an exorbitant amount.”
Ultimately, breaking through economic and clinical misconceptions is crucial, and diplomates are well versed in ways to succeed in a challenging environment. “CPAP is the gold standard for treatment, because you can keep turning up the pressure,” says Van Walleghem. “CPAP compliance is still about 45%, but M.D.s like CPAP’s 95% efficacy.”
When physicians are eventually on board with oral appliances, the prescriptions can and will begin to flow. “You get a prescription from a physician that says, ‘Please construct a mandibular advancement device for the treatment of OSA.’ Remember, we are not the treating physician,” Van Walleghem explains. “We are the DME provider, and that’s what we wantto be. Getting started and/or improving relationships begins with that Diplomate status.”