Sleeping on the Job

Did anyone notice when we stopped being mechanics of the mouth and started becoming doctors of the mouth and the surrounding systems?

Periodontitis has it’s controversial links to heart health.

GERD is many times a silent disease that can be best identified by us at the earliest stages before more serious internal damage is done.

Now, there’s a chance that we could identify one of the major causes of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, before they have a chance to grip the lives of our patients with their terrible consequences.

The only catch is that it raises our need for expertise to the level of medical specialists.

What could have burst onto the scene with such reckless abandon that it raises our scope and the need for our keen skills of observation at the same time?

Sleep Medicine of course.

10 years ago sleep medicine may have been a real discipline, but sleep dentistry was relegated to the outposts of dentistry to the extent that it was difficult for dentists to even acknowledge that they dabbled in the art at their local dental society meetings.

That’s sure not the case today.

Dental Sleep Medicine has boomed.

Almost as quickly as the field has become mainstream, a rising star has burst on the scene herself.

Enter Dr. Erin Elliott.

When I decided to include Dental Sleep Medicine in my agenda for the Biggest, Baddest Dental Event 2013 in Nashville this summer, I asked around for “the” expert in the field. I assumed there would be some 50 to 60 year old male who had been working on this for the last 30 years. I worried that the lecture might be a little stale, but I felt like it was an area that my members needed to know about.

As I continued to inquire, one name kept popping up. I even had a couple of docs email me and say that I needed to get in touch with Dr. Elliott.

OK, I got it. I needed to find this elusive Erin Elliott and convince her to come to Nashville.

Easier said than done.

I finally tracked her down next to the Rocky Mountains. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to be exact.
What I found certainly wasn’t a stodgy, old, warhorse of a dentist.

I found a young, go-getter who has squeezed a lifetime of dental and social experience into her 10 professional years.
Dr. Erin has not only built a thriving practice during those 10 years, but she also found time to give back, working with local tribal dental centers and taking 3 separate trips to Honduras to do charity work.

Then there’s Sleep Medicine.  Dr. Elliott is an active member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Dr. Elliott has authored several articles on Dental Sleep Medicine, including her latest article published in the October 2012 issue of Dental Economics entitled “Take the Time to Check for Sleep Apnea.” She is considered a national expert in this growing field of dentistry and has lectured extensively educating dentists on how to incorporate dental sleep medicine into their practices.

That’s just what she’ll be doing for our group this year in Nashville.

Somehow in the midst of all her professional accolades, she has managed keep up an active personal life, with loving husband and two great kids in tow.

She even has time to get in the occasional soccer game. She’s quick to say that she’s not “competitive,” but with her track record in all the other aspects of her life, I seriously doubt you’d want to be facing her one-on-one.

Barbara Walters once said that Coeur d’Alene was a “little slice of heaven.” I suppose that’s the kind of setting you’d expect to find a dentist like Dr. Elliott, a Winning Dentist if I ever saw one.

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