More Than Just a Set of Teeth
29 Nov 21
WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH and having confidence as a patient can reduce the chances of you having a higher body mass index (BMI), needing preventative care and using the emergency room, while increasing the chances of you having better clinical indicators (such as blood pressure, lipids, triglycerides, A1C)?2 Even better, what if I told you that the more your dentist and dental team encourage you to be self-motivated, the more you will see a reduction in dental plaque and gum disease?3
Dentists can provide you with a lot — we can make your smile a little more even, help stop the pain in your back tooth that keeps you up at night or just clean up your mouth so that it actually feels good to slide your tongue against the back of your teeth. These things can empower you, but the greatest gift your dentist and dental team can give you is helping you to feel fully confident in yourself and your decision making. This is because the most important part about dentistry is not about the details of the job itself – it is about you, the patient. It is about giving you the tools that you need to help improve your oral health and proving to you that taking charge of your health can change your life. As a patient, what you have been through, what you expect and how you feel are priceless and should always be at the forefront of your care.5 Being loyal to this mindset allows our bodies to not only function, but also thrive.
Our health care system fails so many people because our society has made us believe that if you do not have a lot of money, independence cannot belong to you. Sadly, this flawed belief prevents too many of us from getting the care we not only need but deserve. The best dentists are not misled by this unfair thought process. We know that each human being on this Earth has a divine birthright to both a quality life and health care. At the very least, we respect that you deserve and require health plans that support you having autonomy. This includes making sure to provide you with choices, giving you space to talk about how you feel, and teaching you the skill of being able to listen to your gut and deciding with ease what you want to do.1 In health care settings, this looks like feeling good about making choices, being relaxed and knowing what you want for yourself and your health.
Great dentists and dental teams allow you to feel hopeful and help you understand that all you need is some time, self-motivation and the will to achieve a better standard of living. As your doctors, we know that while it is partly your job to achieve this state of autonomy, it is also part of our job to support you to that point. We must help you learn dental care in ways that support you making decisions to help improve your dental habits, which will give you a better quality of life.3 We realize that the roles of the patient and doctor alike are vital. In a world that allows a chronic disproportion of health inequity, it is our duty as your doctor to commit to being a part of much needed change and getting rid of as many of the factors that affect oral health inequity as we can.4
A1C – The A1C test—also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test—is a simple blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. It’s one of the commonly used tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes, and is also the main test to help you and your health care team manage your diabetes.10
Body mass index – Body mass index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI is an inexpensive and easy screening method for weight category—underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obesity. 6
BMI does not measure body fat directly, but BMI is moderately correlated with more direct measures of body fat. BMI appears to be as strongly correlated with various metabolic and disease outcome as are these more direct measures of body fatness. 6
Dental plaque – a layer that forms on the surface of a tooth made of bacteria in an organic matrix (biofilm). Under certain conditions, the plaque may cause gingivitis, periodontal disease or dental caries. The purpose of oral hygiene is to remove plaque.7
Lipid – Fats in the blood.8
Triglycerides – A type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals.9
 Flannery M. (2017). Self-Determination Theory: Intrinsic Motivation and Behavioral Change. Oncology nursing forum, 44(2), 155–156. https://doi.org/10.1188/17.ONF.155-156. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28222078/
 Miller K. L. (2016). Patient centered care: A path to better health outcomes through engagement and activation. NeuroRehabilitation, 39(4), 465–470. https://doi.org/10.3233/NRE-161378. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27689606/
 Münster Halvari, A. E., Halvari, H., Bjørnebekk, G., & Deci, E. L. (2012). Self-determined motivational predictors of increases in dental behaviors, decreases in dental plaque, and improvement in oral health: a randomized clinical trial. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 31(6), 777–788. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027062. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22309881/
 Watt, R. G., Williams, D. M., & Sheiham, A. (2014). The role of the dental team in promoting health equity. British dental journal, 216(1), 11–14. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2013.1234. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24413114/
 Benecke, M., Kasper, J., Heesen, C., Schäffler, N., & Reissmann, D. R. (2020). Patient autonomy in dentistry: demonstrating the role for shared decision making. BMC medical informatics and decision making, 20(1), 318. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-020-01317-5. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33267847/
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 27). About Adult BMI. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html.
 Martin, E. (2020). Concise Medical Dictionary (10th ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198836612.001.0001/acref-9780198836612-e-7885?rskey=c16O2x&result=9081
 Reducing the Lipid Levels in Your Blood. American Family Physician. (1998). Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0501/p2207.html.
 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, September 29). Can Triglycerides Affect my Heart Health? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186#:~:text=Triglycerides%20are%20a%20type%20of,triglycerides%20for%20energy%20between%20meals.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). All About Your A1C. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/managing-blood-sugar/a1c.html.
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