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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

A Dental WHAT?

Feb 03 2015

The most helpful topic for an Innovation Center blog would seem to be examining whether innovativeness can be instilled in people the way installing computer programs enables us to do different things, and if so, how is it downloaded, or learned?  Is there a single Skill Set underpinning all the other attributes that are identifiable in the majority of innovators, short of the few savants floating around, and even there?  Do innovations like the light bulb and Internet arise out of nowhere, or evolve as species do: putting similar things together again and again, and how is that done? 

In coaching, it’s not what you say; it’s what you expect
                                                            Bo Ryan

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.  How does he know these things? you may wonder.  Ahh, the beauty of “Putting 2 and 2 Together to the Nth Power,” as I posted on September 8th.
        I was innocently getting a tooth fixed at my dentist’s, who shows me a piece of equipment she was using that she got at a—dig this!—fishing bait and tackle store, so I reciprocate mentioning that one of my sons is in osteopathic college, and I’ll tell him to case out the hunting and camping stores, as well, before purchasing expensive medical hoodinks.  If it can clean a fish or detect a bear, who’s to say it can’t dissect a person or diagnose a heart murmur just as well?  So the incomparable Dr. Adams, who delights in talking to herself while working, which has a strangely calming effect, perhaps enhancing one’s confidence in her—like a wind-up doll (no pun intended) whose string you don’t even have to pull—confides that her brother-in-law is a doctor, who is considering giving up medicine because he feels like he’s going around in circles while his patients, disdaining his good advice, are marching to an early grave.  So naturally I tell her that her brother-in-law might benefit more from reading this blog than changing careers, only to wind up in the same boat again if the problem isn’t his patients, but his style, which he will carry with him, whatever he does—or with all due respect, his lack of one.  The September 23rd post, “My NEXT Once in A LIFETIME Opportunity,” concludes with comments on that score from our very own Dr. Trilling of Family Medicine lore.  What elicits information best also intervenes on lifestyles best. 

I ask you, Studious Reader: is there anything in the universe that exists in isolation?  Wouldncha know it, but dentists have a similar problem, with many patients sparkling a mouthful of cavity fillings before they reach puberty, which often leads to senior citizens facing dental bills in excess of $15,000 (ouch)!  As problems are wont to do, other significant variables enter into the equation besides dentist’s communication skills, much the way a stone dropping in water ripples beyond the location where it fell.  If you were asked what is the most common chronic health condition, oral health would probably be just a shneid above athlete’s foot in every age group, the most common response to which would probably be, “So what?”
        Dentists are busy people.  The healthcare system—if you wanna call it one, which is defined as “a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole,” as one can hardly call healthcare here, unless you ignore the recipients, by and large—doesn’t even provide for consistent, thorough dental preventive care, let alone education.  You don’t need an MBA or CPA to gather that $1 saved = $1 earned; nor a medical degree to notice that our mouths are not only part of our bodies, but the entry point for virtually everything that gets inside us.  You don’t even need a high school diploma to make one wonder how our mouths got separated from healthcare, in the first place.  One might surmise that dental insurance is generally optional, secondary coverage, not part and parcel of health insurance because dental care would only add to the already staggering cost of health insurance in most cases, BUT … Big BUT … has any consultant, many of whom specialize in medical practices, hospitals, and insurance companies, not to mention Dental Schools or associations, so much as looked at whether providing free dental preventive care and properly educating people about it might actually save insurance companies, the government, and people money, just as flu shots, mammographies, and other preventive measures do?  Who hasn’t seen TV commercials with parents turning off the lights at home from out of town, and other amazing things that phones and computers can do?  Where are the National Institutes of Health and American Dental Association on a Dental Care application?  What senior citizen can forget Happy Tooth or The Invisible Shield from toothpaste commercials back in the day?
        Dentists are also business people.  If it ain’t in the coverage codes, it doesn’t get done.  That isn’t selfishness; dentists are as kind as the next person, and give patients as many breaks as hardware stores and supermarkets.  Nobody expects them to devote time to adequate, much less comprehensive education of patients, unpaid.  The Question isn’t why don’t they, but why aren’t they?
        It should come as no surprise that there are visionary dentists, as there are scientists and artists of all kinds, business people and politicians, athletes and coaches, who see beyond cutting edge procedures.  Jim Yong Kim, the president of The World Bank by way of Harvard Medical School and The World Health Organization, proclaimed in an interview with Charlie Rose that the forefront of medicine isn’t new equipment and pills, but the Transfer of Information.  The good Dr. Adams told me that my Innovative Idea of a Clinic for Dental Counseling would be very near and dear to the heart of Professor Fred Ferguson at Stony Brook Dental School and pediatric specialist in their Dental Care Center, which is the largest provider of primary oral health care services in Suffolk County, who sent me the executive summary based on a grantmakers in health issues dialogue, aptly called “Returning the Mouth to the Body: Integrating Oral Health and Primary Care.”  Why would Don Quixote’s exist in isolation, any more than frustrations do?  His and websites, which provides a personalized profile with guidance for every situation, deserves wider exposure than windmills holfway through the Homptons.  Check it out.
If someone with his credentials, and those I mentioned ain’t the half of them—fellow of this; director of that—can’t even get public schools to distribute a Dental Health Profile that students fill out, themselves, on their own time, requiring the schools to do even less than they do every time a class goes on a field trip since students don’t even return the form, why should I be dismayed over not getting so much as a single comment here about my September 18th and January 19th posts suggesting Straightening Out The World?  On the other hand, what dental plan or patient wouldn’t see that an hour of Dental Counseling would save them countless hours of dental treatments?

ESPN basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, commented during the Wisconsin / Michigan game on January 24th that Wisconsin committed the fewest fouls—and turnovers—of any team in the country, and Put That Together With never having seen a coach speak as little to his players during the shoot-around before the game as Wisconsin coach, Bo Ryan; then Put That Together With Coach Bo telling him “something profound when he asked about it: “In coaching, it isn’t what you say; it’s what you expect.”  
       Apparently, even expecting players at the highest level—Wisconsin is ranked among the top 5 teams—to do what is expected of them, is unexpected.  We’ve been over that equation more than once, from the very first post to “It’s All in the Game” on October 13th, with one conundrum or another hidden withinExpect the unexpected …”.

No doubt, there is a unit in every school about Dental Hygiene / Care, BUT … since getting students to do what is expected of them can be taught, the whole healthcare crisis in the country is clearly linked with the education debacle discussed on June 15th in “The Lessons Within The Lesson.”  Since that isn’t getting fixed any time soon, let us institute a Clinic for Dental Counseling and let the market bear what it will.  In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt—even less than most dental work with Novocain—if students were taught how to do what is and avoid what isn’t expected of them.  Damn shame if all that stood between everyone, who settled for what they do, instead of having their pick, is not expecting to. 

Stony Brook University Innovation Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3775

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