It’s a strange saying, but one that I heard a lot from my mother as a child. I guess even then I had an annoying curiosity about things. My aunt once told me, after coming to me as her dentist, that she knew when I was a child that I would make a great dentist. I thought it strange since I really didn’t decide to become a dentist until after my sophomore year of college. I asked her what made her think that? She told me that I was always taking things apart and putting them back together. And, she continued,“and the smaller it was, the happier you seemed to be.” She told me about how she marveled at watching me take apart a small transistor radio and putting it back together. I remember that little transistor radio. I used to sneak it under my covers at night so I could hear the L.A. Dodger baseball games when my idol, Sandy Koufax, was pitching.
Even as a child I was curious about what made things tick.
“Some things never change” is yet another old saying. I’m still annoyingly curious.
It’s easy to see a problem and offer a solution. Antibiotics can help treat infection, root canals thwart nerve issues, a crown restores a broken tooth and an implant replaces a missing one. That is how traditional dental practices work and it’s how they make money because these treatments come with a price.
Yet, that approach was never satisfying enough to me. I was always asking WHY?
Of course, I received a lot of satisfaction by relieving people of their discomfort and improving their function and appearance, but I always wanted to know how the problem arose? What was the underlying cause and, more importantly, what could be done to insure the problem didn’t recur?
Why do some people eat lots of candy and never get cavities?Why do some people never floss and not get gum disease?
Why do some people’s gum recede despite their excellent care?
Why do more people suffer from sensitive teeth than ever before?
Why do people go for years without cavities and suddenly get many?
Why do people’s teeth continue to shift, becoming more crooked and worn out?
(Why do people who had braces as kids need them again as adults?)
These questions and more have been plaguing me since dental school. And, as I have observed people in my practice for nearly 40 years, these questions have led me on a quest to learn the answers. That quest led me to take a Hospital Residency when they were rare and difficult to get into. It led me to go back to learn Orthodontics and TMJ. It led me to take thousands of hours of continuing education from the gurus and the best clinicians in the world. It led me to become a founding member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health. It led me to return to Tufts and take a mini residency in Dental Sleep Medicine. The quest continues for I am still yearning to know WHY?
Here’s what I have learned:
There is always an underlying cause or causes to disease you just have to dig deeply enough to figure it out. Only when you figure it out, can you hope to prevent it from returning. It’s a multi-dimensional puzzle. It’s a diagnostic Rubic’s cube.
Getting to the cause is not easy. It takes time and often, a great deal of patience and, of course, thought. Today, most people avoid the difficult. They like to take the formulaic, quicker and often simpler approach. I understand that. As a society we suffer from attention deficit disorder. We want immediate gratification. We hate putting off any reward. Waiting is something to be avoided.
Apple comes out with a new phone or Ipad every 6 months. And like clockwork, lines form around the block so people can be the first ones to get the next new feature. People camp out for days because they just can’t wait.
“Star Wars” will be around for years, yet the first weekend it was out it grossed over ½ billion dollars. In a few weeks, you’ll be able to download it to your personal device-of-choice.
The urge to find quick fixes can be overwhelming. Our fast-paced, high-intensity culture fuels an increasingly unfocused approach to healthcare. Doc-in-the-boxes are springing up on every corner, just next to the Starbucks and Duane Reade stores (where you can also get flu shots). Manhattan is turning into its own version of Florida, where there’s a strip mall on every block, each having a Dunkin Donuts, pharmacy, dentist, podiatrist and a hair or nail salon.
“Urgent” has become the new approach people have to health, so “Urgent-Care” centers have become many people’s primary care givers. Many of us felt sorry for those in poorer communities who used emergency rooms as their primary health-care givers. Whom should we feel sorry for now? Ourselves? YES!
My quest has taught me that quick is not necessarily better, fast, often, isn’t expeditious and simple, often, isn’t lasting.
Manhattan Dental Health-style practice is disappearing. I see it happening around the country as I travel on my continued quest. It’s a perfect storm of conditions that are coalescing to accelerate the extinction of thoughtful, personalized, individual, long-term-focused healthcare.
The shame of it is that we’re now able dig deeper to get at causes. We’re beginning to understand the complexity of the human body. We’re beginning to understand the genetics involved and the interaction of our environment on our genetic expression (epigenetics). We’re beginning to appreciate the interaction of the microscopic organisms that coexist around us, on us and in us (Microbiome). And, we’re beginning to understand the interaction of the mouth with the rest of the body (Oral-Systemic connection).
The quest continues. But now, I’m also on a crusade to save the style of healthcare practice that allows our increased understanding, our newfound knowledge and our increased ability to uncover causes to, in fact, be practiced and applied. That style of practice is becoming harder and harder to sustain because it is unappreciated by our hyperactive culture, our cash-strapped government and our profit-driven insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
The pendulum is swinging. It’s moving in a direction that concerns me. We can’t stop it, as the momentum is too great. What I hope to do is preserve a remnant of the kind of practice you and I appreciate so that when the pendulum finally swings back, when people wake up to this insanity, there will be a model to point to and serve as a beacon.
Manhattan Dental Health will continue to be that beacon of personalized, individual, long-term-focused and thoughtful care where causes are uncovered and long-lasting solutions are presented in an environment that pays attention, cares and instills trust and confidence.
What can you do to help?
Pass this along. Help me stop the madness by letting others know that there’s a better way. I am grateful for your support and hope to continue the tradition of caring and excellence into 2016 and beyond.
To everyone’s good health and wellness,
P.S. You can find the answers to the questions I raised in special reports I’ve written. We’ll happily email them you or to someone you think could benefit from this information.