Recently in your practice, it is very likely that you have: efficiently temporized a broken tooth and reassured a patient that it will be just fine; started endodontic therapy for a patient in acute pain and helped her sleep again; and have placed composite on a chipped or broken front tooth and helped her smile again. (Fig 1, 2, 3)

temporized broken tooth
endodontic therapy acute pain
composite on chipped tooth

The relief the patient experiences in these every-day examples in your practice (and so many more) often inspires deep gratitude and a “raving fan.” Would you be open to the possibility that your brief encounter with the patient not only helped subdue uncertainty or relieve pain or enhance esthetics, but also helped the patient feel happier, sleep better, or be a better parent, employee or friend?

You are not a tooth-fixer. You are a facilitator of health and “wellness” every day in your practice, using the gifts and tools that you have. Similar to the undeniable and obvious evolution of airway into the dental field, we continue to evolve in the direction of simply helping move people towards health, in a manner that is appropriate for each patient. (Fig 4, 5)

radiography appropriate health
dental health and wellness

It is always a good idea to bring fresh ideas and new insights in the learning organization we like to call “the dental practice.” And although it seems to be a new theory, the truth of the matter is, the scientific study of integrating “Wellness and Vitality” into the dental practice to positively impact patient care is at least a century old! It is for this reason that Christy Battiato, MS, CWP and I are excited about wellness/vitality in the dental profession as a whole. Dentists who are willing to elevate patient care to the next level are perfectly situated to embrace this mindset and move their practices further along the road toward lasting patient wellness. That is you!

Being the daughter of a health-centered dentist, Christy learned the unique health challenges facing dentists and their patients. Various research experiences during her master's program, including applied testing and interventions among police and fire fighters, led to the formulation of her applied wellness program development. Her contribution to dentistry includes designing and implementing the first comprehensive/medical wellness program specifically for dentists.

‚ÄčThe wellness protocol for dentists

The results of her work have benefitted dentists wanting to achieve a wellness-centered practice. She is also founder of VitalityU, a coaching company offering wellness solutions for life and practice. Her passion is in serving people, educating health professionals, and writing on wellness and nutrition for all levels.

I am sure you and I are similar, compelled to experience what our patients experience as much as possible, like tasting fluoride, phosphoric acid, various impression materials, having a full series of radiographs taken, a rubber dam placed, etc. Right? Oh, is that just me? Now I feel silly.

Anyway, I wanted to experience the current evolution of the wellness protocol that Christy developed. So I did. My hope and expectation was grounded in nutritional evaluation, education and guidance. I got that and so much more that I was not expecting (Fig 6, 7).

dental health and wellness christy battiato
stress audit dentistry christy battiato

Her highest and best practice is in guiding dentists to co-create the steps necessary to implement wellness/vitality into the dental practice. Her concepts are simple, profound and organic. Her approach is to provide innovation through simplistic yet comprehensive methods of science and technology.

A second layer of Christy’s work is grounded in the latest New Global Wellness research, which points to the shift toward the environment/culture of “Team Wellness,” to facilitate optimal patient care, thereby revitalizing the doctor-patient relationship and, at the same time, integrating wellness/vitality concepts into the practice!

Together, Christy and I have developed a comprehensive wellness model to integrate for best practices and deep learning that we want to start sharing with you via Spear Online. We hope our findings inspire you to seize the opportunity and advance your practice along your journey of wellness and vitality.

It is our aim to equip and fortify dentists and dental teams by providing insights and methods on nutrition and well-being for his/her patients. By doing so, we hope to advance the practice of whole patient-centered dentistry and thereby help dentists provide a gateway for patients to receive preventive health care strategies in a direct and positive environment.

‚ÄčPreventive heath care and dentistry

When introducing preventive health care into the dental patient experience, it is vital to weave oral hygiene, lifestyle factors, and education together for the highest and best practice. The first question dentists always ask is: “What nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can I recommend to my patients?” 

Further, “How can I help my patient contribute to their own caries-free prophylactic oral environment?” In truth, what each of your patients needs is not more information; after all, can’t they Google it?’ When it comes to patient education, isn’t it true that people already have the information they need?

A balanced approach to nutritional principles and oral preservation will provide the canvas from which we begin. Many believe that diet is the number one factor contributing to the patient's oral health. A healthy dental health plan begins with you, the dentist. Do you know your patient and are you familiar with their dietary habits (both strengths and weaknesses)? Is this patient on track?

Secondly, are you comfortable talking with your patients about their general nutritional health? Patients’ self-care can be conducted by a thorough oral exam along with a good hygiene screening.

It was Bob Barkley who said, “The health of the relationship between the doctor (dentist) and patient is more important than the health of the patient.” The health of the patient is a worthy goal to accept and nurture. Only then can the dental team co-discover a carefully-engineered pathway (discussed in the next article) for each individual patient. Sometimes, as CEO of our practices, we become so focused that we miss the big picture.

Oral hygiene and patient education/IQ are factors that go hand-in-hand because as the patient begins to see the connections, the magic and forward movement toward health becomes the more natural pathway. Even if health education does not become part of a treatment plan, the seed has been planted.

So don’t give up! Your patients’ control of oral hygiene will, to a large extent, determine the appropriateness of dental services. Your ability to stimulate the patient's self-care is what will set them apart, regardless of how perfect their diet is!

It is very important to keep in mind that you are more than qualified to offer patients personalized and powerful wellness care because it all starts with the patient's own self-care. And you have been assigned the role of being a change-agent, a sort of catalyst for care. What better place than dentistry for patients to learn to take control of their own health!

Onward toward helping your patient achieve a level of nutritional and dental IQ you can co-create together for a winning combination! We hope this initial article will stimulate some thought, and we look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Kevin Kwiecien, D.M.D., M.S., Spear Faculty and Contributing Author

(Click this link to read more dentistry articles by Kevin Kwiecien)

Co-authored by Christy Batiatto








Commenter's Profile Image Mark V.
September 19th, 2017
Interesting topic. Looking forward to the Spear Online content. Thanks Mark
Commenter's Profile Image David B.
September 22nd, 2017
Kevin, I'm glad to see this topic being raised. I am unfortunately feeling a bit disillusioned as I enter into my 25 year of practice at the amount of overall disease in my patients, both systemically and orally. I am one of those who subscribes to the nutrition of Americans as being responsible for 90% of the health problems, and decay in particular with its huge correlation to diet and reflux (which is also arguably dietarily influenced). I feel there is a lack of CE addressing this and more importantly the things we can do to educate and empower patients to "heal thyself" through better nutrition. Also, with the release of LoLoz, silver diamine fluoride, remineralizing toothpastes like Enamelon, and GERD surgical procedures like TIF and LINX, we have at least some tools to stop or even reverse damage from decay. If making changes in the way we eat can ultimately reduce the medications patients currently take (which also would reduce dry mouth and the associated oral disease that comes with it), we could really claim to proactive and holistic in our approach to oral wellness.
Commenter's Profile Image Brett P.
September 27th, 2017
David. I couldn't more strongly agree. Personally I have found it next to impossible to make a change in my patients American way of eating and have found that the majority of medical care so insistent on the need for surgery or pharmaceuticals versus addressing the real issue of poor food quality resulting in inflammation and autoimmune C disease. I would love to really make a change in these peoples lives if I could just make them believe. Hopefully as this repeated message resonates, it will eventually fall on ears ready to listen
Commenter's Profile Image Kevin K.
October 3rd, 2017
David and Brett. Thanks so much for your feedback and passion. Someone, some people, or some organization can be the trailblazers. More and more, we are the healthcare provider that helps move our patients towards health. We never used to talk about GERD, airway, or nutrition at all. If we look back and compare where we are today to 20 years ago, it is amazing. Imagine 20 years from now!!! Wellness and nutrition are an integral part of sleep, GERD, tooth preservation, esthetics, psychology, and health.