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)
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)
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.
The 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).
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.
Preventive 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.
Co-authored by Christy Batiatto