12.17.10 Issue #458 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

David Clow
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The First Line
By David Clow

Tell me if you think this is a stretch: dentists are part of national security infrastructure.

Am I going too far? Consider some troubling news from the Pentagon just brought to light by conservative columnist David Frum on CNN: In 2008, over 4,500 recruits were discharged for failing to meet military weight standards. When we say “military weight standards,” we aren’t talking Army Rangers or Special Forces. Male United States military recruits have to have a body fat percentage below 26%. That’s just under the body fat percentage, 30%, that defines clinical obesity. It’s far above what a soldier in good physical condition typically carries. And it means that over 4,500 people literally ate their way out of the service. Worse, it means that millions of young Americans are physically ineligible to wear a uniform.

If the future looked safer than the past for any of us, maybe all this would be acceptable. Sadly, no one reading this thinks that’s the case. This puts dentists in a position they might not know they occupy: you’re the first line of defense.

The Battle Lines
Dentists man the post where obesity begins. You’re the experts on the mouth, and by extension, you’re the expert on what goes into it, what happens when it’s there, and the effects it has afterwards. No, you aren’t nutritionists or weight counselors, and no, you can’t make your patients walk three miles a day and lay off the Doritos. However, you do see the whole picture of diet from a unique perspective, and you can talk about good nutrition as it relates - and it always does - to good dental health. In so doing, you hit two targets: you can put a good word in for your patient’s total well-being, and you can remind them that you’re not just a drill-fill-bill expert, but that you have a lot more to offer for their whole health and happiness. The dentist who makes a living out of fixing problems needs problems to happen. The one who helps patients prevent problems might get to practice a higher level of dentistry, and might get better trust, better word of mouth recommendations, and a more satisfying practice.

If all this sounds like an exaggeration, well, I’ll concede a little. It is. But, only a little. Any reader here with military experience knows the importance of every soldier’s good health to the overall fitness of the unit. Compromises can’t be tolerated for long. The same level of attentive fitness pays off in everyone’s life, whether civilian or military. We’re all fighting a daily battle against aging, sickness and chronic illnesses - for ourselves, our families, and the whole country. We’re still in the middle of a national debate over the bloated healthcare costs we face as a nation. The future on that front doesn’t look any safer than the one on actual battlefields. Health, fitness, and the investments we all make in them are front-and-center in our budgets and our behaviors every day. Am I exaggerating when I say we need to reverse the trend towards obesity, poor dietary choices and their outcomes? Am I exaggerating when I say that if we don’t, we’ll be weaker, sicker, and less prosperous?

Business and Battles
It’s an irony for all of us that our healthcare infrastructure is one of the world’s finest, that our technologies for wellness are more advanced than ever, and with those advantages and opportunities, we’re plagued not just with natural problems, but with problems we acquired on our own. But scolding helps no one. Maybe a little inspiration is called for.

The greatest generals were the ones who could get their soldiers to march fearlessly and proudly with full hearts and firm purpose. I’d humbly suggest that for every healthcare professional, and particularly for dentists, there’s no better cause to march for than your patients’ overall good health. For them, there’s no better purpose. The dentist who can connect the big healthcare picture with the small one, the big effect with the small act like flossing or basic preventive care, can help a patient rediscover motivation he or she might have lost. That dentist is more than a drill-and-fill practitioner. That dentist can make a difference in a patient’s whole life.

Wellington said that “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." A dentist’s equivalent might be that “Victory over bad diet choices starts with a motivated, informed consumer.” As a patient, I keep hoping that the dental profession will take a more prominent role in collaboration with physicians, dietitians, and the media in linking together all the facts that lead to better overall health and wellness. The need is obvious: in the big picture, America needs better healthcare habits, and we need them now. The dental profession has an important role to play in this fight.

I’d also welcome advice from you when I’m in your chair. One-to-one, our collaboration might help me see my role in this more clearly. The big picture seems overwhelming to me sometimes, as I suspect it does to many patients. But once I’m motivated, I march. And the general, even the one in the white smock, who gives me a full heart and a firm purpose, wins my ongoing loyalty. That’s the dentist I come back to again and again.

One more thing: you’re in a battle to be the best dentist in your market area. I’m ready to help you if you help me. Tell me if you think that’s a stretch.

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.

Listen to David’s FREE podcast. Click Here

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