I want to believe that dentists are ready for new ideas. Before COVID-19 many already felt isolated and exhausted from the constant fragmenting imposed by hygiene checks and multiple operatories. This ‘busy-ness’ has kept them, us, you, away from exploring healing new ideas.
Our current health care system was already limping before SARS CoV2 attacked. It was limping because it was a fraud to begin with: it never was a health system. Rather, it is a disease management system. Oral health care is on a parallel track that concerns many of us. A fee for service model designed around managing disease. Yet few have a clear vision of what a new system should look like. Conditions of health care have eroded because we all have been too busy to pay attention.
LEADERSHIP FOR CHANGE STARTS WITH IMAGINING A NEW REALITY.
But now that COVID-19 has strewn rocks in our path, we have been forced to come to a full stop. There is no better time than now to think deeply of what we need to let go of, what we need to welcome, in order to shape our future. There is no better time than now to connect with physicians, nurses, educators, administrators and facilitators, to share a vision for a new and better system, a system in which the mouth is no longer separate from the rest of the body. Leadership for change starts with imagining a new reality.
The mouth is the body’s dashboard, but the health care conditions are such that we seldom communicate with our physician colleagues. Therefore, what we see in the mouth can not contribute to the advancement of health care. Our ability to shift this paradigm will have enormous benefit on health. Here is why:
- COVID-19 is an infectious disease that will eventually be conquered.
- What also needs to be conquered are the chronic diet-related diseases, such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, that have consistently shown up as co-morbid factors leading to death when one contracts COVID-19.
- In the mouth, tooth decay, a diet-related disease, shows up decades before the other systemic diet-related diseases like the 2 mentioned above manifest.
- From this perspective, teeth, because the acellular nature of enamel, are sentinels to the body. But in order for that role to be fruitful we must:
- Pay attention
- Share our knowledge outside our silo of dentistry
- Dentists and their teams, working at the vantage point of the confluence of health, nutrition, medicine and dentistry, witness first hand and well before other health care professionals the ravages caused by the terrible imbalance of modern diets, especially in vulnerable populations.
At the edge of dentistry, seeing the mouth as the body’s dashboard connects teeth to body in such a meaningful way that it will also improve overall health, saving billions of health care dollars, and save lives.
TEETH CAN SAVE LIVES… ONLY IF WE CAN PAY ATTENTION