What Being a Doctor is About!
Periodontal disease and the oral-systemic connection, dental sleep medicine and sleep apnea, and TMJ/TMD and headaches – all bring with them incredible and unprecedented opportunities for dentists and physicians to interact with each other. Indeed, countless of our patients and citizens at large depend on our doing just that. The new science is truly phenomenal and brings with it tremendous opportunities to build your dental practice and to help thousands of people, especially as we work with medical doctors. But accomplishing this isn’t without its own problems.
Dr. Omer Reed said it best when he observed that “dentists have never been taught how to approach physicians.” How true! Despite our professional proximity and relatedness, we train worlds apart. We’ve seldom if ever really enjoyed the collegial relationship with each other that we should. And dentists have long taken it in the shins by having to deal with the deprecating “you’re not a real doctor” digs from the uninformed. Unfortunately our patients have probably suffered much because of it also.
Well, fortunately medical science and the Readers Digest have teamed up to come to the rescue. Remember the headline: “How Your Dentist Can Save Your Life: Your dentist may be the most important doctor you see this year”? It turns out that systemic inflammation may well be the cardinal common thread explaining many of today’s most troubling and enigmatic medical problems. At least that is what the research is beginning to strongly suggest. Very strongly!
We now know that chronic oral infections such as periodontal disease increases systemic levels of circulating inflammatory proteins called cytokines, including the now well-known marker C-reactive protein. Elevation of circulating cytokines and activation of the innate immune system, activation of arthroenic mechanisms directly and indirectly related to oral pathogens and their endotoxic particles, post-translational modification of proteins by oral microbe produced enzymes inducing autoimmune reactions, and the adaptive immune response to “molecular mimicry” of oral microbe heat-shock proteins – all speak to the tightening connections between the mouth and the rest of the body.
Plus, we are now discovering that simply breathing wrong at night (sleep disordered breathing) can increase levels of inflammation. Oh – and then there are those pesky migraines! Consider all the bad bites and TMJs that increase the flow of neuromuscular afferent/efferent traffic on the trigeminal nerve creating what is now called “trigeminovascular events” (interpreted – migraine headaches in a sensitized CNS.)
It should be clear to any thinking health professional: dentists and physicians need each other. More importantly, patients need physicians and dentists working together!
In fact – the real bottom line is that we MUST be co-managing our patients together! Not only can we not entirely treat these conditions effectively on our own, malpractice attorneys and the proverbial standard-of-care will insist on it! Medical doctors can’t diagnose or treat gum disease, fit oral appliances for sleep apnea, or stop headaches through the correction of faulty occlusion and TM disorders. Dentists can’t manage the systemic effects of and diseases that present systemically.
Dentists have never had it so good! Not only do we have implants, cosmetics, occlusion, and smile makeovers, but now we can save lives! Literally! And we are seeing patients who are under “doctor’s orders” to see us, to boot!
Hopefully by now, you will have understood the wide open market opportunity all of this presupposes. Ironically, it will not likely occur spontaneously. Physicians are not about to run in mass towards their dental colleagues asking for help. Therefore it is up to us to bridge the gap. And this is the take-home message here : Any dentist who makes a serious effort in a grass-roots marketing campaign (let’s call it “good communication”) will enjoy the fruits of their early proactive efforts, will be in a favored position in physician referral networks, and will become the “go-to” dentist in their community. It’s that simple!
Which brings me to the vision!
The mission of AAOSH is to change the way dentists and physicians interact with each other. The ultimate beneficiary will be the hundreds of millions of people worldwide whose lives will be saved or preserved because of it. We aim to save these millions of lives by helping dentists and physicians to be more interactive and to find ways to trust each other and work closely together to improve the health status of our mutual patients.
In achieving this vision, we will not only impact the general population but will also build increased profits for dentists who will join with us in the mission. It will help a large class of physicians and dentists practicing higher quality healthcare to avoid the malpractice problems that will no doubt plague us if we ignore the new science.
What makes us Doctors? In the final analysis it lies in the fact that today’s modern dentists will practice the new art of “Dental Medicine”. In finally rising to be “doctors of the mouth”, forward thinking dentists are making profound contributions to health, life, and well-being as they help physicians co-manage systemic inflammation, sleep disorders, head and neck pain, and build peace-of-mind like never before. Indeed, it is a new age. The science makes it so. And millions will praise and reward our efforts because they are looking for the same outcomes.