Read about Drs. Timothy and Emily Bandeen and their journey to provide a better sleep experience to their patients with their Bfit™ Sleep appliance.
Drs. Timothy and Emily Bandeen bring beautiful smiles and peaceful sleep to patients
What can you tell us about your backgrounds?
Dr. Timothy Bandeen took over Bandeen Orthodontics in Battle Creek, Michigan, from his father, Dr. Roger Bandeen, in 2006. In late 2009, Dr. Emily Bandeen became a part of Bandeen Orthodontics. Dr. Emily Bandeen is a general dentist from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She attended the University of Richmond where she graduated with a BA in Religious Studies with a concentration in ethics and a minor in biology. She then went to The University of Tennessee College of Dentistry where she earned her DDS in 2006. Dr. Timothy Bandeen attended Central Michigan University for his undergraduate degree in Biology and then went on to complete his DDS from the University of Michigan. Dr. Timothy completed his orthodontic residency and MS at The University of Tennessee. The two doctors met while attending The University of Tennessee, and they married during their second year there. After graduation, the couple moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. They now have three locations in southwest Michigan: Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and Three Rivers. In addition to working as doctors at Bandeen Orthodontics, both Dr. Timothy and Dr. Emily are active in the community through church and through their side business, Cereal City Athletics. They host triathlons, half marathons, and other running and multisport events in their area.
Is your practice limited solely to orthodontics, or do you practice other types of dentistry?
Bandeen Orthodontics has been practicing modern orthodontic techniques for over a decade to make treatment at our office simplified and streamlined. We embrace technology, but we try very hard not to fall into gimmicks, so we utilize only technology to make our practice better. For the past 11 years, we have been using custom digital systems to improve our patients’ care — for example, systems such as Insignia™ Custom Smile Design™ for braces, and Invisalign® and Spark™ for aligners. We are so passionate about this practice philosophy that we have helped train and educate others on the process of Insignia™ (Ormco Corporation) around our country and internationally as well.
In 2015, we decided to delve into the world of dental sleep medicine. We were having a conversation with our triathlete buddy, Chris Gillette, about his experience as a registered polysomnographic technologist working for many years in a sleep lab. More and more we were hearing the subject of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) coming up in conferences and courses. We wanted to know what more we could do in our practice to treat sleep apnea. We hired Gillette as our director of dental sleep medicine and changed our practice name to Bandeen Orthodontics and Center for Dental Sleep Medicine. Over that next year, we developed our complete care model that not only fit patients for sleep apnea appliances, but also provided follow-up care to ensure that their sleep apnea was being treated as well as possible. We felt as though we had a great plan in place, but to execute the plan was more difficult. We tried multiple different “popular” appliances but never really felt satisfied with the products we were using. After countless hours in our lab, Gillette developed a sleep apnea appliance that rose above all the others in its simplicity, its superior fit, and its decreased tendency to cause secondary problems (bite issues and TMJ discomfort). The Bfit™ Sleep appliance was born. We patented our appliance and set out to gain FDA approval. As of April 2020, we’ve been FDA approved, separated Bfit Sleep out as a distinct company from our orthodontic practice, and are now able to sell the appliance to other offices around the country and around the world.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
The most satisfying aspect of practicing both orthodontics and dental sleep medicine is that we don’t have to compromise what matters most to us — providing state-of-the-art care for our patients. We work for ourselves, so we get to set our own rules, our own core values. Our mission is to “provide beautiful smiles to our patients by providing them excellent care with the most up-to-date techniques and technology.” We can indulge in the cool factor of all the latest tech gadgets, such as digital scanners and 3D printers, and put them to good use for improving our patients’ experiences and outcomes. If we worked for a corporation or a clinic, we wouldn’t have those choices. We would be beholden to the bottom-line as put forth by a board of directors. As leaders of our own clinic, we can put our patients first with the kind of care and experience that we enjoy providing.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
As a practice, we couldn’t be happier that we finally completed the arduous task of getting an FDA-approved sleep appliance (the Bfit Sleep appliance). When we started venturing into the realm of dental sleep medicine, we knew we didn’t want to go halfway. We hired a sleep technologist right from the start to help direct the path that our obstructive sleep apnea patients would take. We made contacts with our local sleep physicians and began the hard work of integrating a new demographic into our practice. We promised our team that deliveries of these appliances would be just like retainer deliveries — just as they were used to doing all day, every day.
Day after day and appliance after appliance, it became clear that we weren’t able to keep that promise to our team without making something change from the typical appliances that had been available. The previous appliances that we were delivering to our patients were requiring hours of adjustments and chair time, and our team and our patients were frustrated with the status quo. When we honed in on the problem set we were encountering with those appliances, we were able to create our own solution: our Bfit Sleep appliance. We’ve been using our own Bfit Sleep appliance for years for our own patients, and we can finally offer that solution to dental and orthodontic offices around the country — to whoever wants a stress-free approach to treat sleep apnea patients (getabfit.com). With our new appliance, we are able to keep that promise to our team for an easy in-office delivery. Once we knew how great our appliance was fitting and working for our sleep apnea patients, we went back through our patient list and offered them all the opportunity to switch to a Bfit Sleep without cost to them. Now each of our sleep apnea patients wears a Bfit Sleep appliance.
Do your patients come through referrals?
The majority of our patients come through referrals from our sleep physicians. They may have patients who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine, or who have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. An oral appliance is a great alternative to CPAP for these patients. We also have some sleep apnea patients that have heard about us from other Bfit users, and they’ve sent their friends in to get an oral appliance. Of course, sleep apnea is a medical diagnosis, and we have to include the physicians in any treatment we provide.
What advice would you give someone starting out in dental sleep medicine?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Integrating a new department of your practice is hard work. The most important aspect for us was to make sure we were all in. You can’t dip your toe in the dental sleep medicine pool and expect it to go smoothly for you. You have to show commitment to your team and lead them through all the changes. You have to show commitment to your potential patients that you aren’t just trying something out on a whim but, rather, that you are sincere in providing quality treatment for each and every one of them.
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful specialty practice?
Every practice has its own identity, and ours is based upon the patient’s experience. We established our core values as a practice, and we hung them on the wall for anyone to see. When there is a decision to be made, we go back to our core values and make a decision based on if it upholds those values. When there is an opening in our team, we interview based on those core values. When there is a new hire, we train based on those core values. When patients can feel that consistency, they feel that you’ve taken care of them well, and they continue to support you.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
We have four kids: a 13-year-old daughter, an 11-year-old son, an 8-year-old son, and a 5-year-old daughter. We love being active with them and promoting community. Our kids are in Tae Kwon Do, play soccer, and swim on their own individual teams, but we also try and do activities together. Through our side business, Cereal City Athletics, we host some running events, a triathlon, and youth triathlon in our community. Our kids all take part in training and competing in those events with us. During this time of quarantine, we’ve loved being able to get out and kayak on our river, and we’ve taken up the sport of mountain biking with our fat-tire bikes. We love camping and being outdoors, and thankfully, those opportunities are still available to us even in the middle of a pandemic.
After reading about the Bfit™ Sleep appliance, check out orthodontic treatment strategies for children with sleep apnea here: https://orthopracticeus.com/orthodontic-concepts/orthodontic-treatment-strategies-for-sleep-apnea-in-children/