Home Issues2023 OSH Issue The Future of Dentistry Lies in Oral AND Systemic Health

The Future of Dentistry Lies in Oral AND Systemic Health

Take your practice to the next level with Total Health Dentistry

by Susan Maples

You can only sell what you have on the shelf...

If you are wondering how to take your practice to the next level, earn the right to do more significant dentistry, and become a practice of renowned significance in your community, read on!  

I’ve noticed my colleagues often invest in marketing strategies to make the phone ring with quality new patients.   It’s a ‘tortoise versus hare’ idea complete with short term gains that are ultimately unstainable.  Instead, try working for values alignment with the patients you seek.  If you personally value health and wellness (and I know you do), you will want to attract new patients who share your values.  These are the very same people who will devote their own discretionary spending on wellness and stability, which includes your recommended dentistry. 

Dr. L. D. Pankey taught us, “You can only sell what you have on the shelf”.  So, engaging in new learning to practice total health dentistry will make this dream a reality. 

Expect an amazing paradigm shift.  Most of us have noticed that the “health care” system is not focused on health or care at all.  It’s focused on disease management, prescribing one quick-fix remedy at a time to quell the symptoms of our most common diseases.   Traditionally, our dental professions are guilty too.   Revving your handpieces (or sharpening your scalers) in order to repair the dreadful ramifications of active dental disease, is not the same as curing the disease.  Look at it this way.  If today you discover ed a fire in your home, would you immediately call a carpenter to fix the roof, while the flames are still licking away at the floorboards? Of course not.  You’d call the fire department to put out the flames, then address the root cause, and finally build a restorative plan to fix the damage.   

Total health dentistry works fundamentally the same way. We seek first to identify the countless links and causes between oral health and systemic health.  Next, we pinpoint the root cause(s) of these disease and disabilities and try our best to facilitate health change behavior.  All of that builds trust that, in turn, earns us the right to complete their comprehensive restorative treatment plan.  

Note that singular nature of “THE oral systemic link” is a misnomer!  There are indeed numerous evidence-based links between the mouth and the body. And it’s not just about how gum disease impacts 57 other systemic maladies, but also about how countless systemic diseases provide telltale early warning signs in the mouth.  For instance, the first manifestations of diabetes are a collection of oral signs—but most of us still don’t recognize them as diabetes.     

The list of what we as dental professionals did not used to know goes on and on. For instance, dentists didn’t know that tooth decay was a bacterial infection passed to babies from their caregivers, that gum disease was a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, or that human papillomavirus infection from oral sex would replace smoking as the single biggest risk factor for oral pharyngeal cancer, and that most sleep and airway disorders can be prevented by addressing structural/development concerns in babies and toddlers. 

Is it your time for more learning?   AAOSH is a collection of like-valued dentists, hygienists, physicians, and other allied health care professionals who are passionate about learning together, teaching and practicing all of this!  If it sounds like a mountain to climb, it is.   And it’s fun!   In shifting your practice, you will provide deeply meaningful work for your team members and play a critical role in helping each one of your patients (from age 1-100) healthier, happier lives!  

 What else? As you engage with other medical professionals (by writing educational letters of advocacy for your patients) you will enjoy a growing number of new patient referrals from these medical practices.  Talk about a win-win.  

Turns out, collaboration cures! Please consider this your invitation to join us at AAOSH as we pave the road to the future of dentistry.    

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