The connection between oral health and nutrition is already obvious to you as a dentist—the American Dental Association even participates in advocacy work on this issue. However, your patients need specific guidance to understand the role of nutrition plays on their dental health. Providing quality dental care encompasses more than just dealing with a patient’s teeth, it means looking at the whole person and helping patients see the links between things like nutrition and their overall systemic and oral health. This post covers the importance and the practical components of offering nutrition advice to your dental patients.
Why Nutrition Consultation in the Dental Practice?
The impact of nutrition on dental health is well-documented and widely discussed. In addition to all the scientific research, the ADA’s “MouthHealthy” website, designed to reach patients, includes a dedicated section on nutrition in dentistry, outlining the importance of healthy teeth and chewing for digestion. It also points out the dangers of sugary and acidic foods for the health of teeth and gums, and provides lists of healthy and unhealthy foods for oral health.
Although nutritional information for healthy teeth can be found by doing a Google search, dental patients will respond more positively to advice from dental experts who know their specific dental health profile. Moreover, nutritional literature, links, and advice coming from you and your staff have a greater impact. Studies have shown that, while patients express concern about their nutritional health to their dentist, most dentists do not have the means to give them the proper guidance.
How to Implement Nutrition Services in Your Practice
Where to start? First of all, as a dental health care provider, you and your staff should educate yourselves about nutrition and dental health—there is lots of research and advice for dentists readily available. You and your hygienists can offer tips and advice to patients about choosing healthy foods, proper chewing and oral hygiene at regular cleanings, before a problem even arises. It’s never too early to have these conversations. Talk to young patients and their parents about what they can do to set good nutritional habits for a lifetime. And what about the patients who aren’t proactively looking for information? Proactively providing then with literature can help them understand how important a role nutrition plays in their oral health as well as their systemic health.
Choose a month and start a campaign. Example: make February the month everyone in your practice will spend time learning about nutrition and the role it plays in oral health. Bring in lunch for your staff and review what everyone has learned. Create “cheat sheets” with nutritional tips that you and your staff can pass along to patients. Make a point to talk about nutrition with every patient that comes through the door. If you explain that “February is Good Nutrition Month here at our practice”, they won’t feel singled out.
Another idea is to partner with a licensed professional like a nutritionist or dietitian to conduct individual consultations or group workshops on nutrition at your practice. Nutrition consultants produce excellent guides about dental health and eating right for patients. Place literature about nutrition and the nutritionist’s services in the waiting rooms so patient’s can read it there or take it home with them. If you use a service to send out reminders to patients, consider sending out a reminder about “Good Nutrition Month” and offer to email them additional information if they are interested. If your practice uses social media, consider including articles and advice about nutrition and the important role it plays in oral health via Facebook and Twitter.
Promoting these services may even bring new patients to your practice or encourage current patients to book an appointment. And don’t forget, part of offering nutritional advice is knowing when to refer your patients to other healthcare providers for more specialized care.
Growing your practice and providing the best dental health services means treating the whole patient. By adding nutritional counseling and consultation to your practice portfolio, you’ll be giving your patients the best quality dental services addressing a broad spectrum of dental health concerns.