Are You Keeping Oral-Systemic Secrets?
In my opinion, one of the responsibilities of dental professionals who truly want to evolve into oral-systemic specialists, is to inform their patients of the oral-systemic health links and 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, dental professionals are in the position of delivering this information one-on-one, tailoring it based on an individual’s medical history and then providing expert and immediate answers to a patient's questions.
As respected and trusted health care providers, dentists and hygienists are in a unique position of influence that can help their patients take charge of their health and re-chart its course towards a longer life with more activity and productivity in its golden years.
Unfortunately, when dental professionals do not proactively impart the latest evidence that the mouth can “make or break” a patient's health, they are keeping oral-systemic secrets. Even if they are not purposely withholding information, when dental professionals do not initiate the oral-systemic discussion with every patient, they are keeping it a secret.
What’s more, if not addressed, oral pathogens may be secretly spreading to other parts of the patient's body. I know that’s not the intent. So allow me to provide some tips that will help you be a more effective oral-systemic evangelist and turn back the tide of declining health in the United States one patient at a time!
Be a News Aggregator
There’s a ton of oral-systemic health information out there and much of it is published first in your dental and hygiene trade publications. Are you sharing this with your patients? Make sure to stay 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 the about periodontal disease and oral-systemic health links (https://support.google.com/alerts/answer/4815696?hl=en)
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 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 available 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
· If you can, set up a newsfeed on your web site that 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 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 letters to their physicians.
· Clip articles, slip them into in plastic protective sleeves and put in a lose 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 updated.
· Make a few copies of this binder so patients can sign out and read at home – this can reinforce the importance of your recommended home care regimen.
Avoid Plagiarism and Playing Hot Potato
When re-posting 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 clinic. 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.