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The ultimate PPE that no one talks about

Oct. 28, 2020
Do you know how to protect yourself from COVID-19 and all other kinds of diseases? Dr. Stacey Gividen has some insight that may surprise you.

Get ready for some groundbreaking news about how you can protect yourself from COVID-19 and almost every nasty bug out there, because this will absolutely knock your socks off. Ready?

Here’s the answer: self-health and wellness. There ya go. What...were you expecting something different? A new type of mask? A new shield? Crazy see-through hazmat suit? Sorry to disappoint. This one’s black and white.

Let’s be candid—the immune system is one of the most fascinating systems in the human body. Think about what happens when you cut your finger. It bleeds and, immediately, the body’s clotting mechanisms start to kick into gear and the repair process has already started. Within a week to two weeks’ time, you can hardly tell anything happened. Obviously this is a simplified explanation, but you get my point.

The human body is a machine, your “vehicle” to go and do amazing things in. You get one shot in life with it, so why wouldn’t you want to take care of it? You take care of your car and your dental equipment, don’t you? When you maximize the body’s potential, fighting infection is at its max. Now, it goes without saying that some things are beyond our control (e.g., genetics, need for medications, extenuating circumstances, etc.), but even then, why wouldn’t we want to alleviate the things that hinder the body’s capacity to be efficient and effective in combatting infection on its own?

I had a patient come in for recall recently who shared that she was finally retiring and was so excited that she could at long last start exercising, eating healthy, and getting her body back on track. While I applaud that effort, I was thinking, “Why were you waiting to retire to start putting forth all of those self-wellness efforts?” The effort we put in today, tomorrow, and every day after that is cumulative. Don’t wait! To play devil’s advocate, if that “now” is retirement, then better now than not at all. Once we begin taking care of ourselves, our bodily machine responds in kind. Even the small things count and add up big.

Let me ask you this: How much water have you drunk today? How healthy have you eaten today? When was the last time you got your heart rate up or broke a sweat? When was the last time you made yourself uncomfortable because you worked your body beyond its status quo? Am I being facetious? No, I’m being realistic.

As oral health-care providers, aka doctors, we are in a tremendous position to inquire, advise, and assist our patients with their health and well-being. We take temperatures, blood pressure readings, and assess the health of the oral cavity, which is, quite frankly, a window into the condition of the body. Diet, home care, and so many other aspects of a patient’s well-being are a huge part of this bucket of information that we gather every three, four, and six months. We really are on the front lines of assessment, diagnosis, and prevention.

But very little is talked about with regard to self-health and wellness. Think about it—how much do you read or see about this in the news? Little to none. We are all quick to preach “wear a mask and stay home,” but very little gets emphasized about the things that weigh us down physically and then subsequently have a negative effect on our psyche, self-esteem, and the body’s ability to be healthy.

If I’m honest, it’s the unchecked blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes or cholesterol levels that worry me, as well as the stress levels, broken teeth, TMJ issues, and increased prescriptions that are given to alleviate those issues. What does that mean for us? Dry mouth, caries, ulcerations/lesions, broken teeth, expensive oral health needs—not to mention other medical ramifications and expenses. It’s a huge domino effect that I believe is just picking up steam. Now, before you get upset and think I’m not grasping the severity of the current world events, I am. I just don’t play into the rhetoric.

Want to know the irony of it all? This is nothing new. What I’m talking about is absolutely nothing new. We’re a society of convenience with pill-popping solutions to fix what can be addressed if we just put forth consistent effort. Can it be hard? Yes. Can it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Can it be done? You bet. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and your perception will change.

Being healthy—from input to output—is a mental and physical investment. There’s no magic formula. It starts with the personal incentive that trickles down to our staff and patients, and it ultimately has more far-reaching and cumulative effects than we realize. Being healthy really is the ultimate personal protective equipment.

Here’s some motivational food for thought...

Before you know it, you will be in the latter part of your life and reflect on the course it’s taken. Don’t be filled with thoughts of “I wish I could have, should have, or would have.” Do that shit now. Have zero regrets and make every single day count as if it were your last, because all of a sudden it will be.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles at this link and subscribe here.

Stacey L. Gividen, DDS, a graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry, is in private practice in Hamilton, Montana. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana in the anatomy and physiology department. Dr. Gividen is the editorial co-director of Through the Loupes and a contributing author for DentistryIQPerio-Implant Advisory, and Dental Economics. She serves on the Dental Economics editorial advisory board. You may contact her at [email protected].