12.18.09 Issue #406 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

David Clow
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Stepping Up to the Plate

The 2009 New York Yankees opened their new ballpark in a fashion befitting their proud history, winning their 40th American League pennant and their 27th World Championship. Their on-the-field stardom was complemented by a good move off the field: the new Yankee Stadium offers the expected ballpark food choices such as garlic fries, hot dogs and deli sandwiches, but in a break with tradition, a seventh inning stretch can include fresh fruit.

Fans who feel threatened by non-lethal eating options at the ballpark need not worry; they can still get barbecued ribs at Camden Yards, Philly cheesesteaks at Citizen’s Bank Park, and crow at Wrigley Field. However, the presence of green fresh food in such places, blasphemous as it might seem, is a sign of the times, and a good one. People are taking more responsibility for their health.

It only makes sense. The calorie count for a basket of Nathan’s cheese fries is almost 1,350. A Budweiser is 290 calories, and a foot-long hot dog sets you back 500 or so. For some people that’s a snack before the bottom of the fifth, and moreover, a financial investment of nearly $25, which, combined with the Yankee ticket prices, ought to give the average guy an ownership share in the team along with indigestion. A nectarine runs about 60 calories and costs $1.50, and they’re available along with several types of apples, pears, bananas, oranges and peaches from old-style wooden pushcarts at Gate 4. By the late innings, they’re sold out. There’s a lesson here for dentists.

Dentists and Diet
According to the 2009 F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, adult obesity rates now exceed 20% in 49 states and Washington, D.C. In 1991, it says, no state had an adult obesity rate above 20%. The consequences are dire: increased rates of hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia, among other medical conditions, are practically inevitable in such cases, and overall, these and other disorders related to overweight threaten to cut the longevity of the American populace by as much as 5 years.

So Americans are paying both individually and as a nation to get, live with, and remediate the problems we swallow, and we’re feeling the pain in our wallets as acutely as we do in our legs when we’re walking up the stairs to the cheap seats in the ballpark. We aren’t waiting for more evidence - we want better choices, better information, and better advice now, even when we’re out having fun. As healthcare practitioners, dentists must be seeing the effects of the obesity epidemic close-up. Those of you who see the opportunity here as well as the symptoms can be helpful counselors to your patients. Do you detect anything in my mouth that signals a problem? Can you earn my trust with a few words of encouragement and advice on my overall health and fitness? If we’re looking for fresh food in a ballpark we’re probably looking for fresh thinking anywhere we can find it. The dentist’s office might as well be at the top of the list.

The American Journal of the Medical Sciences explains: “The cost of obesity-related medical care has increased astronomically since 1987, in addition to lost productivity and income. Novel multidisciplinary, preventive, and therapeutic approaches, as well as social changes, are necessary to address the complex interplay of biologic, genetic, and social factors that have created the current obesity epidemic.” That seems obvious to you, perhaps, but being a patient, I’m far more likely to read the sports section than I am to see a scientific journal, and I’ll see the effects of the obesity epidemic on my own waistline before I comprehend the big picture. I need all the novel preventive approaches I can get.

Be My Coach
Some dentists I’ve talked with felt uncertain about offering advice that seems outside of their strict professional scope. I’d say that a few words about diet and good health are entirely within the bounds of good dentistry and practical preventive care, and for the dentist, a way to show caring and encouragement to patients like me. Do you need to badger me to be a good coach? Not at all. Simple gestures can help me see you as an ally. One of my favorite dentists asks her patients about their overall health and eating habits. She keeps a bowl of Red Delicious apples in the waiting room and gives out boxes of green tea. Her patients love it.

The mouth is your turf, and it’s where my cholesterol count, my body mass index, and my blood sugar all begin. If I’m a good groundskeeper, I’m healthier, wealthier, and perhaps even wise enough to choose a banana over a cheeseburger. I need you on the team.

On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.

David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.

Hear David Clow’s FREE podcast – HERE

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