Episode 005 – Is Sleep Apnea/ TMD Right for Your Practice?

On today’s episode we have a very special guest. We have asked Christine from the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Center of Northern Indiana to join us today to share her story and help educate our audience on how adding sleep and TMJ therapy has expanded and grown their practice. Christine’s role is to help the community to better understand the conditions that Dr. Klauer and the rest of his team diagnose and treat in both children and adults. She works with the area’s medical and dental communities to ensure that they’re supporting their practices and thus their patients in the most beneficial way possible. The ultimate goal is to bridge communication between the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Center and those they serve with the goal of being a true wellness resource for their community.

S1 00:16[music] Hi, everyone and welcome to the My Dental Agency Podcast with your hosts, Jackie and Shawn.
S2 00:21Just in case you guys are not aware, we're a dental marketing company. We eat, breathe, and sleep dental. All right, maybe it's not our whole lives but it's pretty close. We believe in thinking differently from other mass marketing groups that you're probably used to and we hope you stand up against corporate dentistry. Yes, you heard me say it, we help the little guys. We do this by helping independent practices like yourself build genuine relationships with patient, create and manage positive reputations by utilizing online resources and retain your current patients. And you're probably thinking, "How the heck do you do that?" We do all this by creating custom, relatable, personalized, and distinctly different campaigns that reflect the needs and personalities of each individual practice. It's as simple as that.
S1 01:11So providing this valuable education to the dental community is a really big focus here for us, and this podcast just serves as one way that we do that. So in this episode and in episodes to come, we'll be talking a lot about common frustrations dental practices have with marketing, big marketing wins we've seen and have been a part of, and even some really big failures. We'll also be sure to share as many tips and tricks as we can to make sure you're staying up-to-date on how you can really just best market your dental practice. [music] On today's episode we have a very special guest. We have asked Christine from the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Center of Northern Indiana to join us today to share her story and help educate our audience on how adding sleep and TMJ therapy has expanded and grown their practice. Christine's role is to help the community to better understand the conditions that Dr. Klauer and the rest of his team diagnose and treat in both children and adults. She works with the area's medical and dental communities to ensure that they're supporting their practices and thus their patients in the most beneficial way possible. The ultimate goal is to bridge communication between the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Center and those they serve with the goal of being a true wellness resource for their community.
S2 02:23So Shawn just gave a real formal introduction of Christine but I'm sure Christine can better articulate this. But really what this means is she's the person in the practice that's hitting the pavement and screaming from the rooftops to be sure her community knows about the practice and how they're changing lives. Shawn and I actually met Christine while at a conference in Nashville and were truly amazed by not only her breadth and knowledge of sleep and TMD therapy, but how this has really changed and grown their practice. Welcome, Christine.
S3 02:55Hi, how are you?
S2 02:56We're doing well today.
S1 02:58Yeah, thanks so much for joining us.
S3 03:01Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
S2 03:03Yeah, thank you. All right, so what does this mean to you guys listening to the podcast and, honestly, why should you care? As most of you probably know, sleep and TMD treatment have been a hot topic for a few years, probably even more than a few years. And I'm sure Christine can fill us in on exactly how long. But more and more general dentists are becoming interested. This is a huge market. So many patients go untreated or only feel they have one option which is a CPAP. Now, I don't want to get too technical because, obviously, we're on the marketing side. I'll leave it to the experts like Christine. But the biggest reason we've asked Christine to join us is because her and the rest of her team have really changed their practice, and they did this by adding these services to their general practice, and then eventually this has been their full focus. So, Christine, can you walk me through kind of your story? Tell us about where did you and Dr. Klauer start? Where are you guys today? How has this changed the practice? Just walk us through that, if you don't mind.
S3 04:09Absolutely. So I was recommended to apply to the general dentistry practice, where it was Dr. Klauer and another associate, and to take over their marketing efforts. And I met them and sat down and I was like, "Okay, dentistry, this is not something I ever really saw myself involved in." And my dad who's an international CEO actually said to me, "This is career suicide [laughter]." And he was like, "Because marketing directors do not belong in dentistry. Run away." And I was like, "No, dad, really, I think that there's something here." And so I took a leap of faith and that was July, six years ago. And shortly after that, Dr. Klauer was introduced to the educational component, the clinical education component for the treatment of TMD, craniofacial pain, and sleep breathing disorders. And so we were literally at the same restaurant accidentally walking by each other when a phone call came in and offered him the opportunity to go and continue his educational journey in this niche. And I was like, "Gosh, I barely understand dentistry at this point, and now we're talking about things way over my head. But, yeah, I'm game. Let's figure this out." So fast forward from July... I'm sorry, from November until July, and he had completed close to 1,500 hours of continuing education credits and was on his way to being triple board certified. And at that point, he had resigned completely from doing general dentistry and was only treating TMD, craniofacial pain, headaches, and sleep breathing disorders inside the general dentistry practice that we were both still working at.
S3 05:52The general dentistry practice, when I first started there, it was about a $2.5 million operation, nice, steady 30-year-old company, and the goal was to double it within a few years. So you take that population and you start screening them effectively and educating them on what TMD, craniofacial pain, and sleep breathing disorders are and now you have grown or birthed a new practice out of that. There's a lot of things that need to happen but that's the high-level view of what actually happened. Fast-forward to two years ago, Dr. Klauer opened up his own standalone practice and we are now running six full rooms, he's in clinic four days a week, and we are estimated we're welcoming about 60 to 80 new patients a month to the practice. All fee-for-service. We're not in network with any insurance company so it's a very fruitful practice [laughter].
S2 06:57Wow, yeah, that's a great achievement. So, essentially, I mean, just to sum that up, he went from working in general dentistry practice, he added the... Just like a lot of practices are doing, they add that as a service, treating TMD and sleep apnea, and then eventually broke off and went into his own sleep entity, correct?
S3 07:20It is, and there's a lot of different paths I think that I would... I think that there is a place for the one-day-a-week dentist, the two-day-a-week dentist, the retiring dentist, and the dentist that wants to go and do their standalone. So there is, when you look at the population, at least 25 to 30% of the population has some sort of sleep breathing disorder. There is no shortage of patients. So encouraging just a dentist to take one day a week to address this because they're the most qualified I think is really the message of encouraging them to do that.
S2 07:54That's great.
S1 07:56Christine, what do you think the biggest achievement you guys have had has been since you started treating patients for sleep apnea and TMD therapy?
S3 08:06I would say the biggest achievement has been that we have recreated our web of providers from just our self-send locations and we are now working with other providers in regional markets to drive patients to us. So that to me is the biggest achievement. I recreated these webs within an hour or so of our practice and it's just really fulfilling to be able to have that presence in communities outside and still only have one location.
S1 08:41Really, really neat. That's really cool.
S2 08:43So, obviously, I mean, treating patients is the ultimate goal and being able to offer this in your area or in anybody's community is amazing. But let's get to the marketing side. What do you think, from your perspective, what doors does this open for general dentists by adding this to their practice? Like you said, either if it's one day, two days, if it's a retired dentist, if it's they go off into their own sleep entity, but what doors do you think this truly opens?
S3 09:13I think whatever the doctor wants. So just to dovetail off what you said, we work with some offices that this is all that they want. They just want to treat their existing patients, and that's great. But you still have to provide education to them, and as you and I both know, education is online, it's offline, and you've got to be able to get them to understand the depth of this disease. So, to walk you through, if this was a general dentist that wanted to just see if they could offer it one day a week, you screen the patient chairside, you give them some pieces of information saying, "This is what I suspect, this is what I'd like to do next." And then that patient goes home and they're kind of thinking about, "I just went there for a cleaning and I'm not really sure." Then you've got to be able to follow them online so that they can feel confident in coming back to you for that treatment. And so, obviously, you guys are the experts in how to actually make that happen but what we have done and what we promote to be able to help more patients is to be able to make them feel really secure and educated in their decision to come back and see us as patients.
S2 10:30Yeah, that's a great point. And just for all our listeners, some of the things that she mentioned about kind of taking this outside the practice. So everything that we talk about here at the agency, you guys inside the practice are doing a great job educating, making them feel comfortable, like Christine has said. And then you want to take that one step further and the ways to do that truly are get back in front of them, get back in front of them on Facebook, get back in front of them through email. Start their education process over again, make them feel good, maybe do some video testimonials of patients that were suffering before and you've changed their life. But there's a lot of opportunities online, like Christine said, that really kind of take it to that next level and take it outside the practice.
S3 11:13When we have posted testimonials on Facebook, you would not believe how many shares that gets. I mean, patients love to see their testimonials and they love to let other people know. And as everybody knows, the least expensive form of referral is typically a word-of-mouth referral. And they're the most... They're the ones that are going to be the most compliant. They come in, they already know how much it's going to cost, and they're just there because they already are sold. So the easiest way to do that is online, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, I mean, any of those medias are great for that kind of thing.
S2 11:49Yeah, you nailed it. We say this time and time again, that the best content is the real content. The patients, what's going on in the practice, how you guys are changing lives. I mean, sharing that stuff is like gold. We can post regular mundane posts about how many people suffer and what are their statistics and what do you suffer from and why, but at the end of the day, oh man, we couldn't agree more that the real gold there is sharing those video testimonials. So, Christine, it seems like to me, after a general dentist gets trained, they get certified, the best way for them to start it seems like would be to go after that low-hanging fruit now, and which is their patients. And for us, as a marketing agency to say that, clearly it would benefit us if the first place they start is blasting all over online at website, Facebook, ads, right? But truly, I mean, you would agree that the best place to start is their patients, correct?
S3 12:58Absolutely. And it's getting them engaged in the conversation, so sending them links to videos or sending them newsletters or talking about it on Facebook. Some of the biggest impacts that we have is that we provide wellness workshops for our patients. And so part of the treatment protocols that we follow are nutritional counseling and we encourage physical activity. So if you go to our Facebook page, there is a lot of that content on there because we're extending the value and extending the relationship beyond just the actual treatment. And we do that to generate new patients as well, so it's always beneficial to boost or take some of that content that is genuine and value-based and extend that out to recruit new patients from outside the practice but to also add to the value that we're delivering to our patients.
S2 13:58So talk to me a little bit, what do those seminars look like for you guys? Are they after hours? Do you put on an event just for a couple of hours? What does that look like?
S3 14:08We've got a couple different... So for our patients, the wellness workshops that we do are based on the triad of health, so emotional, spiritual, and physical. So we would either bring in an outside speaker that is maybe an expert dietician, nutritionist, that type of thing. We've brought in somebody who is actually a psychologist but he ran a motivational workshop for us. We do grocery store tours, which I know sounds really silly, but, again, on the nutrition element of it, when Dr. Klauer recommends the Deflame Diet, which is no gluten, dairy, sugar, so basically it's an all-American diet [laughter].
S2 14:41Yeah.
S3 14:42Then it's overwhelming, yeah.
S1 14:45That's my diet.
S3 14:45The patient gets overwhelmed and... Yeah, right [laughter]. The patients gets doughy-eyed and overwhelmed, and so we took that opportunity to say, "Okay, here we're going to meet at the grocery store and the enthusiast in our office is going to walk you through and show you, Shawn [laughter], if you love to have a sandwich at lunch, then let's choose this sandwich or this bread and this lunch meat." And so it's just being able to hold their hand and extend that value that we use online to share that this event is happening and that always works really well for us. And then we also have dental and medical continuing education events throughout the year. And that helps us to build those relationships and obviously get more referrals from outside the office.
S1 15:41Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And, obviously, you guys are focusing kind of really hard, and you specifically, right, on some more of those kind of grassroots efforts in educating the community about what you guys do and how you guys can help. Can you tell us a little bit about, outside of what we just talked about, what are some of those things? Kind of you mentioned kind of forming those webs earlier a little bit further away from the practice. Talk to us a little bit about what some of those efforts are and what kind of results you're seeing from them.
S3 16:10Sure. So a couple of different things. One is when we go into a new market, so, for example, last Friday I was in South Haven, Michigan, which is a little over an hour away, and we've been seeing an uptick of patients find out about us from up there. So we went to a meeting with an ENT group, which is we need an ENT to help us with our practice because a lot of our patients have nasal issues. So I go up there, that's the first person that I want to find and have a conversation with them and get them to understand the techniques the doctor is recommending and just developing an overall relationship. We're always looking for like-minded providers. If we don't like the doctor, then we're probably not going to refer patients to them and vice versa. So it's a relationship-building thing. So the next thing I'm going to find is I need an orthodontist up there, I need to find a sleep lab, I need to find if there's a board-certified sleep physician, and I have a list of 10 different providers that I need to find in that market. Once I find that, then I can host a continuing education event up there or an information night, which we're kind of doing both. So I need to let all of the dental and medical community up there know that we're hosting an event and that at that event we're going to introduce ourselves, we're going to share how we can benefit their patients and relieve their chronic pain and chronic fatigue, and just kind of where our place is in all of it.
S3 17:33For the general patients, we're letting them know that we have partnered with some of their local community providers and that we are here to help. And that those patients are not going to have to, in this case, cross over state lines to come and see all of our providers. That we can have them come down, they can have three appointments, and then the rest can be taken care of in their local community. So I've done this in half a dozen markets and that's how we've helped our business grow.
S1 18:04Very neat.
S2 18:05That's awesome. I mean, it sounds like a lot of work but I'm sure the payoff is really good.
S3 18:14It's a proven method [laughter].
S1 18:18We're going to keep doing it, right?
S3 18:19That's why I keep doing it.
S1 18:21Yeah.
S3 18:21Yeah, no. I mean, it starts with education and to tie this back into how digital has helped us do that, obviously, then we run ads in that market, and then as the uptake comes, then I can deliver ads to that market and track them coming to us. When you meet a patient that's driving an hour and a half to come and see you, that means that what you're doing is right. And so we want to make it very turnkey for them and, when they come down, that they are ready to buy. Which means that we're being very upfront about the process, we're being very transparent about who we are and what we do, and we want to make it very seamless and we want it to be all about the patients, why, and what their victory is in coming to see us. So we have to use online efforts to do that because we don't have that much time when they're calling to schedule the appointment.
S2 19:11So a decent amount of our current clients are getting into and have already started really treating patients with sleep apnea and TMD. And from our experience thus far with all of our clients, this is a huge opportunity for online marketing. And many patients don't realize they have a serious issue, and when you can shed some light on that and shed light on these issues and pain points, that there is a solution for them or at least an alternative solution, this really changes the game for the practice. And I know you just mentioned that you guys are advocates for online marketing, so, I mean, this question is kind of obvious. But I guess you guys feel like this is a big, big piece of the puzzle, although you do grassroots and you make the referrals and you do a lot of those connection pieces and the seminars, which is the more traditional side of marketing, but you guys do believe in the online marketing. Is that correct?
S3 20:05Oh, absolutely, and I think when you're looking at a product or service, there's always competition, and one of the greatest things that you can do is just be creative instead of competitive, but also be aware of what your competition is. So instead of looking at the dentist down the street who's also doing this, look at CPAP, look at beds, look at pillows, look at... I just saw this other... It's like a hat that you put on that's supposed to help you sleep. That's your competition and so, really, it's about what value do you provide your patients in helping them achieve a good healthy lifestyle. And that's what your online message should be because that's what's going to make you stand out. And I think that, whether it's just dental or it's sleep or it's TMD, I was successful in building the practices, both the dental and the sleep practice, that are fee-for-service, completely elective, and just year over year kept crushing it as far as goals and production and collections go. And it's all value-based, and the easiest way to share your value is to share your story, and the easiest way to do that and reach the most amount of people is online. So I can say yes to online marketing but I think that you've got to be able to connect the dots for your patients and just be a storyteller and you will achieve whatever goals you have set out for your practice.
S2 21:34Yeah, we couldn't agree more. Absolutely. And do you think that... I mean, obviously, there's a lot of forms of marketing today. When you guys are talking to other general dentists that are getting into this, the sleep and TMD portion of their practice, do you ever recommend TV, radio, billboards, or do you primarily have them stick to kind of those grassroots and referrals and then online marketing? What are your thoughts there?
S3 22:01So I have dabbled in all of those. Again, it depends. It was more for the general dentistry practice and it was a brand builder that was needed at a time but I don't think that there is a better place other than generating like-minded referrals and finding patients online. And that is all that we do. We don't do any print, we don't do radio, we don't do TV. I've bought and vetted out all of those before and it's just not... This does not deliver the quality of leads that you need. And I think that what makes you guys so great is that you're not just looking at the marketing and the agency side of things, but you guys are looking at what does this doctor want? Does he want that one-day, three-day, five-day? And then you can build a marketing solution around whatever goals they are trying to achieve. So I would say that, for me, I don't ever expect us to go back to doing some of that traditional media because it's just so much waste, and TV is the worst [laughter]. If you were to try and run a ROI against a TV spot, I mean, it's crazy. But that's just my opinion, and I've been in this field for 15, 17 years now, so that's just my opinion.
S1 23:39Yeah. Clearly, specifically with sleep and TMD, we've had a lot of success with online campaigns and some of our most successful campaigns are related to those topics. And like Jackie had mentioned before, a lot of these patients, if you will, don't even know how serious these issues are that they have, and like she said, what solutions there are out there. We've even deployed some types of quizzes that we advertise to people that they can take in just a few seconds that kind of quickly gauge their risk factors for things like sleep apnea. And those are really successful for driving patients to a practice. So, I mean, we've had a lot of success there as well.
S2 24:25Yeah, and I think we agree with you, it's about providing that value, and the more that you can do that and build the trust before they even step into the practice is truly key. Just kind of shoving down their throats that you do this and this is what you guys offer isn't going to really benefit you in the long run. Yes, it may spark some interest but at the end of the day the education and building value and kind of having a story behind it is absolutely the way to go for sure.
S3 24:56And I think that there's a place for... I think that everybody should leave a place in their marketing for something fun and new. And I know that I shared with you guys a little bit earlier about my geofencing around some offices, and this was something that I threw a couple of bucks at one month and then I continued to throw money at it because it was working. So I think that if... You have to educate people and you have to be strategic and you don't want to throw money away. Marketing, it can be expensive if you're not doing the right thing. So I think that you've got to experiment a little bit and let go of the reins because it's... Especially digital, there are so many things that are changing, and if you aren't willing to take just a little bit of risk, create some calculated risk and take it.
S2 25:47Absolutely, we agree. And so, Christine, I know obviously you guys, Dr. Klauer and the team and you have the practice where you're treating patients, but you also help educate other general dentists. Do you want to talk about that a little bit? I mean, I feel like our listeners could really benefit from that. There are so many people that are really getting interested in this and they don't know where to go and there are so many programs out there for education and how to get certified. You want to talk a little bit about that?
S3 26:15Sure. So we do not provide any clinical education. Where we found a void, when Dr. Klauer was going through his clinical education, we found a void in the business operations of this. And I'm sure that if there are some of your listeners and clients out there that are listening, they feel as well that they have this great general dentistry practice but that turning the focus to the patient to treating something that they didn't necessarily come in for, that it's tough. And so outside of marketing, there's a relationship there. At the core of this, there's loyalty, this patient has come to you. So it's how to get them to move along in the process and access treatment and comply with treatment. And we found that there wasn't really a system out there and so we vetted out all of our good ideas [laughter] from our bad ideas and put that down into a protocol-driven system. We also found that there isn't really a good CRM system so we used a medical EHR system for our patient software and they're really-- it's not marketing-friendly. You guys would just die [crosstalk] [laughter]. There's nothing there. And so we had to create something for this as well because, again, this is such an evolving industry. So we created all types of trackers that we can help some of these offices procure patients from their existing practice and track them and follow them along in the sales process.
S3 27:50So we do help. We have about 40 clients that we help nationwide right now, which is great. I love being able to make an impact in California and in Canada and in New York City and Chicago and Florida. So it's really cool to be able to help patients that don't come into our office get help from these doctors that are, again, of like-minded to us. So it's very fulfilling and I just love being able to be an extension of some of these clients' offices.
S2 28:26I mean, our doctors, they know the clinical side of it, the treatment side, but really where they're lacking is internally, business side, like you guys are helping with, and then, obviously, the marketing side. Those are the two things that they kind of look at us like, "All right. Well, I know what to do now but how do I deploy this?" So I think this is absolutely key. So how should they find you guys? What's the best way if they were interested in kind of learning about that business side and what they should be doing internally? How should they find you?
S3 29:01Sure. They can just email me. It's cwalsh@tmjsleepindiana.com and I'll help... I'd love to have a conversation with an office, find out what it is that they're looking for. So what does their current practice look like? What are some of their goals and aspirations? So that I can say, "Okay, this is the next step for you." Because it's like being a dentist, not every patient has the same treatment plan. So I really try and work with these offices and say, "Okay. Well, Dr. Shawn wants a practice that's one day a week but Dr. Jackie, she wants to sell her general dentistry practice and open up a separate building." Well, then, obviously, their treatment plans are going to be different.
S2 29:44Yeah, the bigger the better for me [laughter].
S3 29:47Right, right, yeah, no. See, I didn't mix that up.
S2 29:50I knew it.
S3 29:51So, really, just sitting down and having a conversation. And that's my favorite, that's my favorite part about it, is just unearthing some of these wants and desires, and creating a plan for them. And I think what makes us a little different than somebody else who might be able to offer some business help is that everything that we recommend, we've done. And all of the bad ideas, we don't recommend [laughter]. We're literally walking in this every single day, and so I think that there's some validity to that in what we're saying. I absolutely am Dr. Klauer's number one fan and I've walked alongside of him in this journey for the last six years. So I think that there's a lot to that and you couldn't find anybody who's non-clinical that's more passionate about this treatment and helping more patients than myself. So I just encourage anybody who just wants to learn. If this is a good thing for them, if TM and sleep is a good thing for them, then he knows to reach out and I'll set aside an hour and we can have a good conversation.
S1 31:05Thanks so much, Christine. We're so appreciative that you took some time today to take part in this podcast episode with us. And I know Jackie and myself are really excited to [inaudible] to kind of share all the great things you guys are doing over there with all of our listeners, and I know that they're going to really get a lot of value out of this episode specifically. So thanks so much for your time today. We really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do this with us.
S2 31:31Thank you.
S3 31:33You guys, you're very welcome. You guys are awesome.
S1 31:35Thanks so much, Christine.
S2 31:36Take care.
S1 31:39We hope all of you enjoyed today's podcast. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast platform to make sure you receive all of our future episodes. I also encourage you to visit our website at mydentalagency.com or email us at podcast@mydentalagency.com if you have any questions or comments. Thanks so much for listening.
S2 31:55See you guys.