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A practicing dentist in Toronto, Canada, Dr. Uche Odiatu is also a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, boot camp instructor and the author of The Miracle of Health. In an upcoming webinar hosted by Curaden Academy, he will be discussing how physical activity, healthy eating and adequate rest can be extremely beneficial for dental patients’ ability to heal. Dr. Odiatu spoke with Dental Tribune International about the importance of educating patients on the links between oral and systemic health.
Dr. Odiatu, why should dental professionals take a more broad-minded, inclusive view of what affects patients’ healing?
As dentists and hygienists, we will often ask our patients whether there’s anything new in their medical history, and they will say that nothing has changed in this respect. However, if they’ve just started doing something like shift work and are now sleep-deprived, this will cause underlying shifts in their overall health. The science of sleep deprivation shows that shift workers experience more chronic inflammation, have weaker immune systems, are more insulin-resistant, and eat more and so are more likely to have GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease].
So if they have reflux, are insulin-resistant and have chronic inflammation, it’s going to impact their oral health status, even if they’re taking care and brushing their teeth and flossing regularly. And this is an issue that I see with a lot of patients—they don’t sleep long enough and deeply enough because they’re going to bed too late and their use of bright lights in the evening is halting their pineal gland’s production of melatonin. So when we start to discuss sleeping habits with patients in our practice, they realize that it’s a different kind of practice that employs integrative wellness, looking at them from head to toe. It’s something that patients are looking for: dentists that look at the whole of them instead of just their teeth and gums.
Why is something like regular physical activity so important for oral health and healing?
As a National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified personal trainer, I’m able to access the latest peer-reviewed research and articles by exercise scientists about how, for example, regular exercise effectively purges memory cells from your immune system and makes it more functional overall. In addition, regular exercise also increases people’s body temperatures in a way that, like a fever, viruses and other pathogens don’t enjoy. Another benefit of exercise is that it increases the diversity of the microbiome, which has also been shown to improve the immune system’s strength.
It’s clear that exercise isn’t just important for getting in shape; it strengthens your immune system and makes oral diseases like periodontitis much easier to combat and manage.
What advice would you have for a dental professional who is looking to introduce a more systemic-minded approach to how he or she treats patients?
I think that, if you really want to take your patients on this journey, you should be on that same path yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to have a PhD in exercise science; just read the books and articles that are already out there. This is something that attendees of my webinar will learn about, since I’ll be discussing the latest findings in exercise science and in nutrition. It’s been shown in adult education that, when you have to share what you’ve learned, you memorize it at a much deeper level than if you just use it for yourself. This is what I want participants in my webinar to then do—to take away what they’ve learned about the connections that exist between oral health and overall health and use it to educate their own patients.
“Exercise isn’t just important for getting in shape; it strengthens your immune system and makes oral diseases like periodontitis much easier to combat and manage”
What will dental professionals gain from attending your webinar?
I want to reignite their passion for overall health. I think anyone who watches this webinar will be into oral health care, but I want them to see that there are other ways that you can actually get people to be healthier. Many patients look to us for guidance—they might see their dentist or dental hygienist twice a year, and so we have the time and power to make inroads into how they think about their health.
As dentists, we’re not going to be able to heal a patient’s periodontal disease in one session, but we can change his or her attitude toward his or her own health and healing by talking with the patient honestly about the steps he or she can immediately take.
Editor’s note: Dr. Odiatu’s 1-hour webinar, titled “Four patient lifestyle habits that influence healing,” will be presented live on Thursday, 28 October, at 4 p.m. EDT. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about the topic, as well as earn a continuing education credit by answering a questionnaire after the lecture. Registration at the Curaden Academy is free of charge.