Finding Balance while trying to start a new Career

In my March 13, 2013, blog, “Trying to Find Balance,” I discussed how a consulting business has turned into a second full-time job for me, making it hard for me to find balance. In the comments section, our colleague Andy Alas asked to learn more about that second career. I hope to expand upon that here.

I am also an executive producer for the USNA project, a would-be writer of a children’s book series, a voice actor, and a serial entrepreneur. It really all started many years ago…

I had taken some courses in neuromuscular dentistry and learned that, when optimizing the position of the lower jaw, we could reduce a person’s incidence of headache pain, ear pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, neck pain and more. I found that fascinating. I was intrigued and thrilled. Upon further reflection, I am not that surprised to learn that the lower face can influence the rest of the body, and the rest of the body can influence how the lower face responds. It fits with the oral-systemic connections we are discovering in periodontics, endocrinology, immunology and more.

Armed with this new information, I had lunch with an ENT friend of mine. I asked him if he had patients referred to him with headache problems that he determined were not an ear, nose or throat issues.

“Every day.”

When I asked him what he does with these patients, he told me he tells they have a TMJ problem and they need to see their dentist. Then I asked him what he does when the dentist isn’t sure what to do.

“I don’t know.”

I asked if he would consider referring that kind of person to me to see if I could help them conservatively, and non-invasively. Three days later, Linda was in my office. She had gone to my ENT friend for a third opinion. She had seen doctors, specialists, dentists, and more. She was on a cocktail of drugs to (unsuccessfully) manage her pain. Now, five years after her problems started, she had to stop working, as she was disabled at home with her headache issues. She could not care for her family (with young teenage kids) and was scheduled for surgery to sever a cranial nerve.

My friend agreed that her problems were not an ENT issue, and suggested she see me because she had nothing to lose. She had a deep, over-closed Class II malocclusion, and signs and symptoms of severe muscle spasm, TM joint compression and more. We decided to try a team approach to wellness with reversible therapies that included an intraoral orthotic (I don’t like the term splint, because we are not holding the mandible rigid; rather, we are orthopedically repositioning the mandible), physiotherapy, massage therapy and a home exercise regimen that also included heat and ice.

Within two weeks, her pain was subsiding. Within two months, she was off her drugs. Within four months, she was back at work and had cancelled the surgery. She had her life back.

The success of that case almost nine years ago parlayed into a steady stream of referrals from this specialist to me. Many of these people were car accident victims, and my success caused their lawyers to contact me for reports. I like to write and am reasonably good at it, so I became a little bit popular. Then the insurance companies started asking me to examine and report on these cases, and a niche career started.

Just like a lawyer with a specialty in one particular area, I decided to charge fees commensurate with that level of expertise (but do note, there is no recognized specialty in the diagnosis and treatment of TM disorders). Over time, I became well known in my area as a local “expert.”

This niche practice has become nearly full-time, and will bring in a net income of six figures this year. There is an art and science to completing independent dental examinations and writing the reports. There is a difference between resolving problems, determining the problems are directly due to an accident, and deciding which are pre-existing problems.

It has become quite a nice business for me, and I enjoy it. I am making a difference for many people, changing their lives compassionately, conservatively. I am working with teams of like-minded health care professionals. Because of this success, I have been asked to lecture on the subject of “Independent Dental Examinations” at the Occlusion Connections 5th Anniversary Symposium. In this lecture (the entire summit has been AGD PACE approved), I will teach those attending what an independent dental examination is and how to perform one, provide the templates I use in my office, offer instructions on how to write a report (for insurance, for lawyers and more), explain what happens if you are called to court as an expert witness, and describe how to set your fees.

As my mentor, general dentist Dr. Clayton Chan, states, “I remain a general dentist purposely, not specializing in any particular area of dentistry, which would limit my scope of care and ability to treat my patients comprehensively.”

It is in that spirit that I am proud to be a member of the AGD, and use this broad knowledge to help my patients lead healthier lives.

In future posts, one day, I’ll write about my ‘other’ careers. Now what was I saying about balance?…

Larry Stanleigh, DDS

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