On 1-1-11 at 11 p.m., my mother, Evelyn, suffered a heart attack. She had never experienced symptoms, which is not unusual in cardiac events. Research on women having heart attacks and the symptoms women experience was based on how men experienced heart attacks and men and women are clearly different physiologically. This knowledge and the subsequent awareness that heart disease is epidemic (heart disease kills more people than all cancers combined) led me to initiate “Dentistry has a Heart Month.” I am happy to tell you that my mother lived to celebrate another birthday and is healthy and happy in 2014. Some of you may not be as fortunate.
Cardiovascular disease is preventable in many patients. It is estimated that 70% of the adult population in the United States has periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation, of which periodontal disease is the most common, is a leading risk factor in developing heart disease. One in two women will die because of cardiovascular disease. In addition, stroke, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, pre-term low birth weight, and still-born babies can be linked to periodontal disease. Genetic testing has determined that the plaque that builds up below the gum-line is the same plaque that deposits in the arteries and causes atherosclerosis. Your patients want to prevent health problems. In addition, the liver generates a C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) when chronic inflammation is in the body. This protein enters the bloodstream leaving your patients prone to blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Many practices are struggling with hygiene openings in the schedule. Both the patients and the practice wins when you elevate the value for your appointments. You can help them. Preventing chronic inflammation can be life-saving!
Dentistryhasaheart.com was created so that adults can draw their own conclusions regarding the value of preventing oral disease. Learn how to promote Dentistry has a Heart Month in your office. The website was designed to help educate the entire dental team on the subject of the oral body inflammatory connection. Often it is as simple as sharing the statistics noted in the first two paragraphs with patients as they are having their teeth cleaned.
8 ways to educate your patients on the oral-systemic link and implement "Dentistry has a Heart Month" in February:
Improve the thoroughness of your dental examinations by recording blood pressure readings and taking a resting heart rate. Record these numbers on your hygienist's business card. Many patients see a dentist more frequently than they see a physician for a physical examination. This alone can be a life-saver.
Educate the patients with periodontal symptoms about the effect of the bacteria in the oral cavity directly linked to cardiac health. Hygienists, be committed to explaining the information in the context of your heart health promotion. This step requires verbalizing what is being done in the chair. Don't allow bleeding to occur without bringing it to your patient's attention! Bleeding upon scaling or probing is indicative of infection. Use your hand mirror and intraoral camera to show the patient where he or she is bleeding.
Connect to www.goforredwomen.org for printed materials that can support your campaign. Enroll online to receive a free red dress pin and ideas for promoting the national campaign, Go Red for Women Day. Teams love to dress up for holidays. Although both GRFW day and Valentine’s Day are on Fridays (February 7 and 14, 2014) this year, remember to wear red!
Decorate the office in hearts and the logo of the little red dress (Go Red for Women’s symbol).
Send a letter to patients prior to the month-long celebration to encourage them to wear red. Offer to donate $ 1 to the local chapter of the American Heart Association if they do. This is an opportunity to mail your patients a letter. It is a great way to remind them that you are there for them in January, which can be a slow month for some dentists.
Send note cards to patients post-treatment. These can be ordered in our promo products section. We recommend ordering the note cards with your logo on the back of the card. Or simply send Valentines with a heart-healthy message.
Send letters to cardiologists (see letters on the side bar of our website) in your local community to engage them in your practice activities. Visit a local cardiologist's offices with invitations to your practice in a goody bag filled with toothbrushes and floss. Consider the benefits of cross promotion. These physicians may be excited to hear from a dentist who has a heart for this cause. Give away some fun promotional items. To order promotional products that fit in line with this theme, I can be reached by phone at (800) 637-3947 and by email at Laura@JamisonConsulting.com. This step requires a little bit of organization but can be done before February.
Have fun while doing something healthy. Post heart-healthy recipes in your newsletter. Join a local fun run wearing coordinated T-shirts. Host an open house with heart-healthy snacks and make a short presentation on the oral-systemic health link.
Dental teams have the biggest hearts of any organization I know. It has been my privilege to work with dentists and teams since 1981. If hygiene openings plague your office, try something different. In this case, it will bring attention to the heart of the matter perhaps saving the lives of your patients.