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Dr. Jacqueline Russo, a graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry, worked as a cosmetic reconstructive dentist for 16 years. She was a founding member of the Seattle Study Club of Brevard County, and is active in of the local, state, and national dental associations in Florida. She earned her degree in nursing from Indiana University in 1978, and has been a passionate student in the early detection and prevention of disease throughout her career. She can be reached by email at Jacque@enviromedgroup.com.
Today’s dental practice doesn’t look much like it did 30 years ago â¦ and it is about to undergo a seismic shift in focus once again. Dentistry has transformed from a “drill and fill” industry to a more cosmetic-centered industry over the past 20 years. Savvy practitioners understand that their clients are seeking healthcare partners who provide a prevention-focused, total body approach. Health-conscious patients are seeking out like-minded practitioners to help them obtain optimal health.
The fastest growing trend in dentistry stems from emerging research on the bidirectional influence between the mouth and the rest of the body. Research is robust and definitive that periodontal disease impacts heart disease, pregnancy outcomes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many cancers. It is critical that we more effectively treat periodontal disease. The stakes are enormous; we are no longer saving teeth but saving LIVES.
Wellness coaching is coming of age, and dentists play a leadership role in behavior modification critical to our patient’s health. Many times, the first signs of systemic conditions reveal themselves as signs and symptoms in the mouth. If we can offer services for our patients that will not only improve their oral health but also improve their overall health or risk for systemic disease, then we should participate in those services. We are in a unique position to do so because often we the only healthcare provider the patient may see on a regular basis.
So what does the forward-thinking dental practice look like? A recent trip to the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health conference highlighted some intriguing updates on areas of specific dental concern:
The most compelling motivation to offer any or all of these services would be for patient benefit. More than 80% of patients today have gum disease. We are not winning the battle in spite of advances in site-specific treatments. A more global approach including nutritional counseling, ozone therapy, and bacterial testing could dramatically improve long-term remission or possible eradication of disease. And based on the research, this could not only improve lives but also possibly save lives. The additional of other systemic programs like sleep apnea, smoking cessation, and weight management services impact patient’s lives not only physically but also emotionally. We will gain great personal and professional satisfaction from using the skills and knowledge we possess to improve the lives of those who trust us with their health.
Let’s face it â¦ most of us treat our patients a lot better than we often treat ourselves. By focusing on wellness, we become inadvertent beneficiaries and our own health will improve. Implementing these types of programs and offering them to our employees will lead to more productive and happier team members. Their absenteeism will decrease and your commitment to their health will be repaid 10x by their undying loyalty.
Positioning your practice with a wellness model in your community will attract new patients, improve patient retention, and build relationships and referrals from local physicians. The influx of new patients is the lifeline of a successful dental practice.
We constantly need to tweak our business model to stay current and profitable. Most of the programs listed above are inexpensive to implement and require no additional overhead or employees. By striving to improve our treatment outcomes, we can also improve our bottom line.
Our mission in dentistry is to improve the lives of our patients. We can no longer ignore the compelling mountain of evidence that requires us deepen our knowledge to include systemic strategies. Dentistry is no longer about waiting for disease to develop, but to intervene preemptively, safeguarding and improving people's health and quality of life.
Editor’s Note: For more information on the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, please click here.