News From The Wealthy Dentist #40: April 11, 2007
by Jim Du Molin
My Prediction: Future Dentists Will Be Rich, Important, and Well-Loved
Can you see the future? I can!
I see patients driving electric cars to their quarterly check-ups at “Health & Wellness Maintenance Centers.” In each of these health centers, I see not just a doctor, but a highly-trained support staff with the latest technology – digital
patient records, automated analysis of test results, and machines that will check for all sorts of disease. I see painless swabs and quick scans that will diagnose ailments from cancer to bone loss. I see patients who don’t mind seeing
the doctor. And – most importantly – I see you, the dentist, as this doctor of the future!
Today’s news features almost daily stories of technology that will allow dentists to quickly test for (and sometimes even treat) a wide variety of diseases and conditions throughout the body. It’s clear to me that this research is paving the way for dentists to become total-body health practitioners.
What will that mean for dentistry? A new role in the world! Certainly, a new role in the patient’s life: quarterly dental visits become a standard method of checking on one’s health. As a result, patient anxiety about dentistry goes way
down. Dentists and their teams will provide patients with regular check-ups, general health information, and referrals to other medical professionals as needed. As dental practices become more and more important to general health
care, dentists will face greater responsibilities, a more high-profile role in their patients’ lives – oh, and probably a higher income too! Just imagine how the economics of health care will shift.
It all starts with the research. Though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are just a few of the ways that dentists of the future will be involved in their patients’ total health. Keep your eyes open for even more new tests you may soon be able to offer your patients!
Cancer: Scientists at UCLA have announced that they’ve found a way to test for oral cancer using proteins found in saliva, and they hope the technology will become widely available in the next few years. In addition, the Academy of General Dentistry has found that saliva may be able to be used in early-stage breast cancer detection – something that could save the lives of countless American women.
Smoking: Tobacco is a major oral health issue, but it’s one that many dentists avoid. Many tell patients to quit, give them a business card or 800 number, and wash their hands of the whole thing. Well, the University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine is trying another strategy.
Results from the school’s non-judgmental tobacco counseling program are promising: of the patients who accepted and received the counseling, 51% immediately decided to quit smoking, and 32 % remained smoke-free six months later. Said the dentist who developed the eight-hour training program, “One woman from Pennsylvania called a couple weeks
after her appointment to thank us for making her quit.”
Osteoporosis: European researchers announced recently that dental x-rays can successfully be used to diagnose a patient’s risk of osteoporosis. Analysis of the mandible in dental x-rays proved to be just as effective as the “golden standard” of traditional bone mass density (measurements taken at the hip, wrist and spine). Since most patients receive regular dental x-rays, this method of bone loss detection doesn’t require additional time or radiation exposure, and would also allow for long-term measurements taken by a single health practitioner. What’s more, it couldn’t be
easier for dentists – an automated computer program does all the work of analyzing the x-rays.
Immune System: In a recent article for The Wealthy Dentist, RDH Valerie Williams examined the connections between periodontal disease and systemic immune support. In a double-blind study, patients received either a placebo or a nutritional supplement for periodontal health. Those taking the periodontal supplement had reduced levels of gingival inflammation, bleeding and pocket depth. In addition, these patients also had an increase in antioxidant levels. Dentists have long known that periodontal disease can raise patients’ risk for other diseases or conditions – conversely, it now appears that improving a patient’s oral and periodontal health can improve the functioning of their entire immune system.
All of these developments – and all the similar advances in dental health technology not mentioned here – point towards a new future for dentists: that of total health practitioner. This change won’t happen overnight, and it won’t
happen without work on the part of dentists across the country and the globe, but it will happen. As the technology grows, dentists will become a more important part of the patient’s total holistic health – and a force to be reckoned with in the healthcare industry.
What do you think of the changing role of dentistry? As a dentist or hygienist, would you rather be seen as a tooth specialist or as a whole-body medical professional?
Jim Du Molin
Survey: Dental Consultants
In this poll, we asked dentists: Is your dental practice currently using a dental management consultant?
Dentists are split on the issue of consultants. Forty-one percent of dentists responded, “Yes, my practice uses a consultant for our marketing and/or practice management.” On the other hand, 59% replied, “No, my practice doesn’t use a consultant.”
This data showed some interesting trends. Dentists in more urban areas are less likely to use a consultant. Specialists are also less likely than general dentists to use a consultant in their practices.
Here are some of the comments our dentists had to share:
- “I have in the past used consultants, but not a one has ever been able to get me more patients.”
- “The consultant must design the program for me and coach me and my office, not pull something out of a can and say, ‘Here it is, I hope it fits.’ Each practice is different. Both parties (doctor and consultant) must think outside of the box.”
- “I have tried using consultants, but none came through for me. Most do not understand pediatric dentistry, and it was a waste of money.”
- “I use a combination of resources, including 2 CPA firms, a continuing education group, and others.”
Boys Track 4 Pounds of Liquid Mercury All Over Town
A small town in West Virginia is facing a major environmental headache after a
group of young boys stole four pounds of mercury and tracked it all over town.
The children were enthralled by the liquid metal, and they spent several days
playing with it and sharing it with their friends before school officials
learned about the dangerous situation.
When the town’s dentist suffered a stroke a year and a half ago, he shuttered
his practice. The vacant dental office was apparently unlocked, giving the
fourth- and fifth-graders access to a massive amount of the poisonous metal.
So far, five students have tested positive for high levels of mercury exposure, but not high enough to cause serious health risks. At least 25 children handled the metal, and another 200 of the town’s 1400 residents will be screened for
exposure. The town has scrambled to clean up mercury spills found in the elementary school, the library, the park, the church, and a number of homes – with more mercury drops still being discovered around town.
Whew! While dentists and health authorities don’t seem to be able to agree on the safety of mercury amalgam, there’s no debating the danger of pure liquid mercury. Yet another reason why dental practices need to use caution in storing
and discarding toxic materials…
Canadian Dentist Charged with Video Voyeurism over Washroom Cam
A dentist in Chilliwack, British Columbia, has been arrested by the RCMP and charged with voyeurism. Two weeks ago, one of his female employees allegedly discovered a hidden camera in the office’s restroom. Authorities are not certain
how long the camera had been in place.
The dentist has been released from jail and will be appearing in court this week. His wife has denied the allegation and defended him to the press, citing his community involvement and Rotary Club membership. The dentist’s office
remains open, but his wife has indicated he will be passing the practice on to another dentist due to the negative publicity surrounding this incident.
And by the way – if you think this is a unique issue to Canada, think again! I have seen the exact same complaint in the US as well.
Some Dentists Prefer Root Canals to Teenagers’ Music
When the Chicago Dental Society held this year’s annual midwinter meeting, they polled the attendees on a number of subjects. One of the most entertaining questions focused on the popular perception of root canals as one of the worst
experiences imaginable. So the dentists were asked, “What’s really worse than a root canal?”
And it turns out dentists have a sense of humor! Rather than comparing a root canal to gallstones or being mauled by bears, respondents revealed their own secret dreads. “Listening to my teenager’s music,” made the list, as did “a long
car ride with in-laws, “a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s,” and “asking a girl out for a first date.” One woman compared the experience to having a baby: “Giving birth [is worse] – at least a root canal doesn’t go home with you, need diaper changes, cry, and then learn to talk!”
Also in the News…