In my opinion, one of the responsibilities of dental professionals who want to evolve into oral-systemic specialists, is to inform their patients of the many oral-systemic health links and to reinforce the fact that the health of their mouths often determines their overall health.
Although more and more of this information is being distributed via the consumer media and internet, dental professionals like you have the ability to deliver this information one-on-one, tailor it based on an individual’s medical history and provide expert and immediate answers to your patients’ questions.
As a respected and trusted health care provider, you are in a position of influence (see Lisa’s previous post) that can help empower your patients to take charge of their health and re-chart its course towards a longer life with more activity and productivity during the golden years.
Unfortunately, if you are not proactively imparting the latest evidence that the mouth can “make or break” one’s health, you are keeping oral-systemic secrets.
Even if you are not purposely withholding information, if you are not initiating the oral-systemic discussion with every patient, you are in effect keeping it a secret.
What’s more, if not addressed, periodontal disease and soft plaque may be secretly affecting other parts of your patients' bodies.
I know that’s not your intent. So allow me to provide some tips that will help you become a more effective oral-systemic evangelist and contibute to turning back the tide of declining health in the United States and other industrialized countries one patient at a time!
Be an Information Aggregator
There’s a ton of oral-systemic health information out there and some of it is published first in your dental and hygiene trade publications. Therefore you often have a "home court advantage" over the mainstream media.
Are you sharing this insider info with your patients? Make sure to keep on top of the latest oral-systemic news by reading the following information sources:
Dental and hygiene magazines and their corresponding web sites, newsletters and social media accounts
Dental and hygiene association magazines, web sites, newsletters and social media accounts
Social media accounts of dentist and hygienist thought leaders who weigh in regularly about oral-systemic health links
Set up Google News Alerts for terms succh as "periodontal disease" and "oral-systemic health links."
Be an Information Distributor
Once you’ve been monitoring and archiving this plethora of oral-systemic health information, you will need to share it. Luckily, the channels of information distribution are numerous (mostly free) and collectively, can make a strong impact on your patients and surrounding community.
Like and share social media posts pertaining to oral-systemic links
Always incorporate an oral-systemic story or two in your practice e-newsletter.
Have some print versions of your newsletter in your waiting room
When using digital media such as social media, e-newsletters and your web site, link to the source article so the reader can get full details. In print media, provide the URL or web address
Speaking of URLs, use an embedded “click here” link or URL shortener such as www.Bit.ly to avoid posting long URLs that look like www.oralsystemicblahblahblahyadadaydayda.com
If you can, set up a newsfeed on your web site the searches for and posts oral-systemic news items
Share information as it relates to your patients while they are sitting the chair. Use it to help them understand the importance of recommended periodontal treatment, why they need to follow their home care regimen and the impact oral health has on their personal medical condition such as cardiovascular health, arthritis, diabetes, etc.
Quote facts and references that are specific to each patient’s medical history in recall letters and collaborative care letters to their physicians.
Clip articles, slip them into in plastic protective sleeves and put in a loose leaf binder in your waiting room. Use labeled tabs to organize alphabetically by systemic disease state such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular, diabetes, low birth weight, etc. Keep this binder updated.
Make a few copies of this binder so patients can sign them out and read at home – this can reinforce the importance of your recommended home care regimen.
Avoid Plagiarism and Games of Hot Potato
When reposting or quoting an oral-systemic factoid or article, always give credit where credit is due, and prominently mention the source of your oral-systemic information. For example:
“According to the Mayo Clinic, oral health is a window to your overall health and can be linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. The Mayo Clinic also states, ‘Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Remember, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.’ Click here for the complete article. Remember, our team is specially-trained to answer any questions you may have regarding your oral health and how it may cause or complicate medical conditions.”
By sharing information in this way, you not only avoid plagiarism, you are leveraging the credibility of one of the most highly-regarded medical institutions in the world. Also, by “wrapping this reference within an introduction and a close, you are making it more conversational and relevant to your practice.
This blog post only scratches the surface of how to educate your patients and uncover the unintentional secrets of oral-systemic health links. We’ll delve deeper in future blog posts and 3rd Era Dentistry’s social media pages. But for a real quick start program for becoming an oral systemic specialist, check out The Oral-Systemic Specialist Empowerment Program for Dental Auxiliaries™