As a dental professional, you understand the value of going beyond just hygiene to offer patients health screenings as well. But what about taking a step further to incorporate wellness into your own lifestyle—and your approach to patient care? Keep reading to find out how you can be healthier, ways to promote wellness to your patients, and why doing so is so important.
The Mouth-Body Connection
Research conducted in the past few decades has shown that diet can have a significant influence on oral health, specifically periodontitis. Highly processed carbohydrates (such as white bread and refined sugar) and saturated fat (such as that found in fried foods) can cause chronic inflammation.
Conversely, a diet including raw vegetables has been shown to benefit periodontal health. People who are vegetarians have been found to have lower incidence of gum inflammation. Obesity has also been proven to increase the risk of periodontitis, while physical activity can help to reduce it.
Science is also uncovering more links between periodontitis and serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, more than 55 diseases are currently being studied for a connection to periodontitis.
Making Healthy Changes
Dr. Uche Phillip Odiatu is a practicing dentist who’s also an NSCA certified personal trainer and best-selling wellness author. Odiatu has witnessed firsthand how committing to a healthy lifestyle can transform your dental practice, boosting your energy, enhancing stamina and ultimately making the practice more successful.
It doesn’t take a major life overhaul to see benefits. Small changes to your diet, exercise and other self-care practices can make a big difference.
Odiatu believes there are seven pillars of good health:
- Oral hygiene: Hopefully, you’ve already got this handled!
- Sleep: Get at least six hours a night—more if you need it.
- Food: Eat mindfully instead of reaching for the fastest, easiest food (often highly processed). One quick way to eat better is to include at least four brightly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet every day.
- Exercise: If, like many dental professionals, you find it tough to squeeze in fitness, try high intensity interval training (HIIT), which can deliver results in as little as seven minutes a day.
- Water: Keep a water bottle handy and make sure you drink enough that you never get thirsty. Thirst is a sign you’re dehydrated, Odiatu says.
- Breathing: Deep breathing can calm the mind, oxygenate the brain and improve our mood. Use your phone to set a reminder for a “breathing break” every hour.
- Thoughts: Avoid negative thinking. Listening to your coworkers and patients can improve your communication and relationships and help you maintain a more positive mind-set.
Inspire Your Patients
As you transform your life to become healthier, you can also transform your approach to patient care by sharing your journey with them. Patients are more likely to accept your suggestions for improving their dental health if you demonstrate that you’re taking better care of yourself.
“When we as dental health care workers begin to value our own health, we are able to effectively help our patients make a change,” explains Brandi Hooker Evans, owner of dental consultancy Stellar Outcomes LLC, citing the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do.”
During a hygiene appointment, your patient is a captive audience, so use that time wisely to share tidbits of health information you think may be of value. For example, if a patient looks tired, ask how they’ve been sleeping lately. They’re having restless nights? Share what helps you sleep soundly, whether that’s a brisk daily walk or meditating before bed.
Make a commitment to wellness part of your practice’s DNA. Share wellness ideas and successes on your practice’s social media page. Create educational handouts to place in your waiting room. Offer wellness tips in your email newsletters. Lighthouse 360 has templates you can use to easily create and send patient emails.
Less Time on Tasks, More Time to Talk
Busy schedules often keep dental office staff from eating right, exercising and getting enough R&R. Technology can help ease the stress of the workday by taking manual tasks off your hands. For instance, Lighthouse 360 can automate patient recall, reminder and confirmation messages, eliminating time-consuming phone tag. Customize messages and send them via email, text or phone.
Last-minute cancellations have you frantically making phone call after phone call to fill the empty slot? Use Lighthouse 360’s Patient Fill-in feature to automatically detect last-minute cancellations, find and contact interested patients. Problem solved!
When you use technology to save time in the office, you and your fellow dental professionals have more time to talk to patients and share valuable tips that can improve their oral—and overall—health.