Total Health Dentistry: What’s it All About?

By Dr. Susan Maples

What a strange and turbulent time to be in dental practice and leadership. All eyes are on us as to how we navigate for ourselves and our at-risk patients through this systemic disease threat. By now you know that dentists and hygienists are at the very top of the list of occupationally hazardous professions for COVID-19. This leaves many of us feeling anxious and wanting to help.

This is a unique time — when every person asks themselves if they would be at risk of death or disability with an inadvertent COVID-19 exposure. We know that that the most at-risk segment of our population is those who are afflicted with airway disorders, obesity, insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes) and metabolic syndrome. If you live a typical American lifestyle, these risks more than likely include YOU. But what does any of this have to do with the mouth? Everything!

“The mouth illuminates all the signs, and once you ‘see’ them, it makes it impossible to ‘unsee’ them.”

It wasn’t too long ago that dentists thought the mouth was its own private domain, that not much of what went on in there was linked to the rest of the body — and vice versa. Today, we understand that the most prevalent life-altering and life-threatening conditions we encounter have early telltale signs in the mouth. If you haven’t yet explored these, hang on to your seat — the evidence is staggering.

Only a short time ago, dentists and hygienists didn’t know (for examples) that:

  • Most sleep and airway disorders can be prevented by addressing structural/development concerns in newborns, babies and toddlers.
  • Tooth decay is a preventable bacterial infection passed to babies from their caregivers’ saliva.
  • Periodontal disease is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, dementia and erectile dysfunction.
  • Diabetes has a bidirectional relationship with periodontal disease, each making the other worse.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection from oral sex would replace smoking as the single biggest risk factor for oral pharyngeal cancer.

And this list goes on and on!

Our patients’ weakened host-immune response is mostly a result of the most common ailments in our culture: oxygen/sleep deprivation; a defective, sugared-up food supply; and, a sedentary lifestyle. When a patient visits you for his or her three- or six-month preventive appointment, they bring you all the evidence. The mouth illuminates all the signs, and once you “see” them, it makes it impossible to “unsee” them.

It’s time to embrace a personalized model for dental care, focused on far more than your teeth, gums, joints and muscles. By learning to identify the countless links and causes between systemic health and oral health, your entire dental team will soon play critical roles in helping each one of your patients (from age 1-100) live a healthier, happier and sexier life!

In today’s health care environment, which is focused on using a host of medications to put out small fires, helping your patients identify the root cause of their diseases becomes a rare GIFT. From there, helping individualize a wellness track does several things for your practice:

  • With your total health reputation, you will attract patients who value their health from a wide sweep around your practice location.
  • By earning trust, you’ll also earn the right to perform some significant restorative dentistry.
  • By collaborating with other health professionals, you’ll build a remarkable network of co-referral relationships and enhance the quality of your patient base.
  • By focusing on integrative health, you’ll add value to the hygienists’ role and enhanced hygiene profitability through adjunctive testing.
  • Through developing this sought-after niche, you’ll get the golden keys to insurance independence, if that is something you seek.

If you thought enhancing a smile was exciting, try giving someone a new lease on a vital life, while you restore their mouth to optimal health as well. It won’t take long before it becomes your new passion. Total health dentistry is more than a compelling morale builder — it’s a way of life.


Dr. Maples is the founder of Total Health Academy and developer of Hands-on Learning Lab and can be reached at susan@drsusanmaples.com. She is a speaker at the 2021 Florida Dental Convention and will be presenting three courses. On Friday, June 25, “Seeing in the Mouth with Super Powered Eyes: Total Health Dentistry” is at 2 p.m. On Saturday, June 26, “Slaying Dragons: Acid Reflux and Diabetes Detection” is at 9 a.m. and “Creating Powerful Co-referral Relationships with Medical Professionals: Becoming a Practice of Distinction” is at 2 p.m. Register at floridadentalconvention.com.

Reprinted from Today’s FDA, May/June 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view the Today’s FDA archives.

Ain’t That the Tooth!

“Ain’t that the Tooth” is a podcast by the South Florida District Dental Association (SFDDA) that takes you into the lives of its members and their perspective on all kinds of topics in and out of dentistry.

Last summer, the SFDDA board met to discuss plans for the upcoming year. After much discussion, plans to increase its social media and digital presence were agreed upon. Additionally, an ambitious project was proposed: a podcast.

The SFDDA created a podcast that would air every other week to all dentists and available through most, if not all, podcast-streaming apps.

After setting up a studio at the SFDDA office in Coral Gables and recording a few sessions, “Ain’t That the Tooth,” launched on Feb. 3, 2021, and hit 100 downloads within the first two weeks! The reviews have been positive and encouraging.

The podcasts have covered such topics as finding the right associate, student issues and membership. There also will be future episodes that will talk about work-life balance, practicing with your mother or father, and even more personal topics. If you have an idea for a conversation topic and would like to be on the podcast, contact the SFDDA at southfloridadistrict@gmail.com.

“Ain’t That the Tooth” can be found on all major platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Pandora.


Excerpt taken from the SFDDA Winter Newsletter.

Hurricane Practice Prep

We’ve all seen the dramatic effect hurricanes can have, both the initial wind and rain and the floods and devastation that follow. There are steps you can take to stay safe and reduce damage to your property in the event of a storm.

BEFORE A HURRICANE

  • Install storm shutters.
  • Remove yard debris, such as dead tree limbs, that could become flying missiles.
  • Make sure your practice communication plan is in place and ready to be put into effect.
  • Make sure you and/or employees know how to shut off utilities, including water main.
  • Look through your emergency kit to ensure it is fully stocked and up to date with necessities for preparing your practice.
  • Back up computer records and store them at least 50 miles off-site.
  • Gather important papers to take with you if you must evacuate, including inventory lists and insurance information.

DURING A HURRICANE

  • Know your community’s evacuation plan and, if asked to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Avoid elevators.
  • Avoid washed out and wet roads that can hide downed electrical lines or underlying currents that can carry your vehicle away.

AFTER A HURRICANE

  • Water is a major cause of damage after hurricanes. The longer your house is exposed to water, the more damage you’ll see to your roof, ceiling, walls and floors, as well as any personal belongings inside. After the storm has passed, it’s important to dry out anything water damaged.
  • Open windows and doors to allow air to circulate and speed up the drying process.
  • Clean up any broken glass and remove debris.
  • Board up broken windows and doors.
  • Cover roof damage with tarps or plywood.
  • Save receipts for any temporary repair expenses.
  • Move any wet items to a dry place.
  • If possible, place any damaged items in a safe, secure area where they can be inspected later.


Content provided by Safeco Insurance.

This article was originally published in FDA Services’ Hurricane Guide, “Storm Proof.” Be prepared for the 2021 hurricane season with articles about how to prepare, loss and damage, and making a claim. Visit fdaservices.com for more information.

Leadership Can Take on Many Forms

By Dr. Angie McNeight

Leadership in the dental field takes on many forms. From leading our own team members in the office every day to our involvement in organized dentistry and in our communities, we find ourselves called to be leaders more often than we realize. Effective leaders are passionate, committed, inquisitive, solicitous and available. They lead with integrity, handle conflict fairly and maintain confidentiality where required. While some of these qualities are inherent to the individual’s personality, many of these traits and abilities can be improved through learning opportunities and practice.

“I’ve found that the most important piece of leadership is cultivating personal relationships. Becoming genuinely interested in others and getting to know them on a personal level builds trust and rapport.”

Leadership within a dental practice is frequently combined with management, and the lines are commonly blurred between the two. Leaders formulate ideas and motivate their teams to understand the vision they have set forth. Managers focus on the day-to-day activities, setting measurable goals to report success. In small businesses, these two roles often are combined and frequently overlap.

My partner, Dr. Ryan Caudill, and I own and manage our office, and we work hard to be as organized and clear as possible to our 18 team members. We spend time training them, outlining expectations and cultivating problem-solving skills to improve self-awareness. Our morning huddles, monthly team meetings, and yearly staff reviews keep everyone focused on common goals and ensure processes are consistently followed. We also take each team member to lunch once a year on their own with the doctors to get to know each other better. Our yearly patient appreciation parties and team-building days outside the office setting are some of our favorite memories together and help strengthen these relationships. I am a more effective leader when I better understand the person I am leading.

Drs. Ryan Caudill (center left) and Angie McNeight (center right) along with their team.

Leadership outside the office in our communities and professional organizations can be a challenge with varying personalities and leadership styles. Staying positive and focusing on the task at hand are helpful in achieving a favorable result that benefits everyone. At Dentists’ Day on the Hill each year, I am reminded that community leaders are looking to us for guidance on critical issues, and actively listening to understand others is the first step.

I’ve found that the most important piece of leadership is cultivating personal relationships. Becoming genuinely interested in others and getting to know them on a personal level builds trust and rapport. I aim to bring others into the conversation as much as possible, creating a safe space to voice opinions while encouraging others to listen and reflect attentively. This is especially important in our virtual (Zoom) meeting spaces, where having your camera on, being engaged and calling on those who may be more reserved is essential for ensuring everyone’s perspectives are heard and team decisions are made. As a leader, I also strive to be as available and responsive as possible, ensuring fellow colleagues and community members have my cellphone number so they can easily reach me at any time. Responding to emails, texts, phone calls and social media messages in a timely manner (aka as quickly as possible) is a vital sign of respect. 

As the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) chair of the Florida Dental Association (FDA), my charge is to improve leadership within our association. Our yearly LEAD: Leaders Emerging Among Dentistry event is one of the opportunities you can take part in to improve your own leadership skills with seminars related to public speaking, social media for leaders and effective meeting management. As a committee, we work together to find people who are interested in leadership positions within the FDA and help guide them on their leadership journeys. We also collect applications and nominate candidates for the speaker of the house, treasurer/treasurer-elect and editor positions of the FDA.

One of the most important jobs of every volunteer leader is to find your own replacement. You know what it takes to do the job better than anyone, so finding the right person to fill your shoes will ensure they continue on a forward path, building on what you put in place. Encouraging colleagues to join a committee is wonderful but mentoring them along the way is what truly fosters leadership. The LDC helps find these leaders and cultivates them for success.

I strive every day to improve my own leadership skills through building relationships, communicating clearly and showing integrity. Reflecting on your leadership strengths as well as areas that need improvement will help you become the best leader you can for your team, your colleagues and your community.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, May/June 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view this issue and the Today’s FDA archives.