Responsibility and Dental Health

by Dr Rachel Hall B.Ch.D(Uni Leeds), LDSRCS(Eng), MACNEM, Dental Surgeon, Brisbane, Australia

Dentistry has always aimed to focus on prevention of oral disease rather than solely treatment alone. We all know that too much sugar causes tooth decay and that to maintain the health of our teeth and gums it is important to brush and floss regularly. Our role as dental professionals shifted from drillers and fillers to health care educators where we told our patients how to clean their teeth and advised them to cut down on sugar. However, this culture shift needs to be taken further as despite our efforts, rates of dental decay and oral health issues are again on the increase.

Dental professionals are not the gatekeepers of our patients’ health: the patients are. A six monthly or yearly check-up and clean with a filling or two when needed is disease management via treatment, not preventive care. Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.

As dentists our aim should be to be involved as partners in people’s health care, advising patients on their responsibility for their own oral health. After all, they are the ones who every day of their life choose what to eat and drink, how they live, how often they brush and floss and how effectively they do it. We cannot physically be there to guide them every second of the day and the thinking that a couple of hours a year of dental visits will address their dental health issues is both arrogant and disempowering. We need to change how we respond to the dental needs of our patients and empower them to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.

This requires a shift in our level of communication and our approach to what wellbeing and health really mean. Simple oral health messages such as, ‘don’t eat sweets’ and, ‘brush your teeth after meals’, are now ludicrously questionable and ineffectual. Yet, these are the apparent clichés on which the dentist-patient relationship has been built and maintained. This must change. There will always be an element of a dentist-patient relationship because our training teaches us to offer advice and diagnosis to help and treat our patients. But if we really are to make a shift in dental care then we need to see our role more as managing patients’ expectations and fostering the philosophy that they are as much in charge of their own oral health destiny as we are, in fact more so. Thus, the way the patient cares for themselves, what they choose to eat and drink, how they live and lifestyle factors will play an increasingly important part of our work. This change in approach does however require us to develop a deeper understanding of health, nutrition and lifestyle impacts on oral health and a more holistic approach to dental care.

Unfortunately, this is where modern dentistry and even holistic dentistry fall short as there is more to illness, disease and healing than we currently know and unfortunately, we do not have the solutions. It appears that as human beings there is a great deal more to us than initially thought and despite our best efforts and medical advancements, dental health seems to be on the decline. We as dental professionals should be willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Perhaps then, through this level of humbleness, we would be open to admit that there is a missing link and seek new approaches to health and healing and adopt an approach that allowed for a marriage of science, healing and complementary care that addresses the physical, biochemical, emotional and energetic aspects of health.

The concept that we have a responsibility for our own choices, health and self-care and that we are more than simply flesh and bone are part of the presentations of the Esoteric Wisdom which apply an understanding of the body and the human situation to our daily life. This awareness, as presented at length by Serge Benhayon, makes for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing that could easily be incorporated into a new model of dental care, where the way we live day to day and the state of our being are just as important as brushing and flossing our teeth.

What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health and were able to see that dentistry was merely there to support them? What would occur if the prop of blaming the professional is removed? And what if the excuse of having regular check-ups as a justification for a lack of regular and effective self-care no longer held sway? Then, to what extent would patients, empowered with the knowledge that their oral health and wellbeing is now in their own hands, decide they are willing to take responsibility and implement lifestyle changes?

202 thoughts on “Responsibility and Dental Health

  1. Some great questions you have posed Rachel. We empower ourselves by taking responsibility for the quality of our health and well-being and by our commitment to making lifestyle changes and choices that are truly supportive.

  2. Oral care is pretty intimate thing that we need to pride ourselves on as our teeth and breath hygiene are essentially and literally in the face of everyone we meet and talk to. It should be number one on everyone’s self care list. We should and do know what needs to be done. We need to take care of ourselves, what we eat, how we rest, exercise and work . Thank you Rachel for spelling it out so clearly.
    It must be frustrating for you as a dentist when/if we, the general public, come in and display total disregard for our teeth, oral hygiene and thus our selves and expect you as a dentist to fix us.

  3. This is brilliant
    ‘Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.’
    Just because it has been normalised to need constant dental work, does not mean it has to be this way. I know that when I became a student of Universal Medicine and made big shifts in my life style my oral health just improved immensely, it was truly amazing, as most other dentists I had gone to in the past said that my ‘bad teeth’ were hereditary and did not bring the responsibility back to the way I was living.

  4. As I prepare myself for a trip to the hygienist later this morning I am reminded of this blog and the wisdom therein. This approach to our oral and dental health offers us a reflection of our responsibilities throughout our lives not just in relation to our health. It occurs to me that we have created a situation where we can choose irresponsibility in other areas of our lives too – such as social care – because we have social workers and carers – and crime – because we have Police. My feeling is that the original intention in the creation of such services was all about working alongside those with specialist knowledge and skills rather than ‘leaving it up to them’. We are responsible for our lives – whether we like it or not. And if we choose to live irresponsibly – we are responsible for this too!

  5. I love the proactive approach to health and wellbeing the dentistry model offers us all. It is a collaboration between the professional and ourselves, with us taking regular, daily – if not momentary – responsibility for our wellbeing and attending our check-ups for support, not just to be fixed. Isn’t this what our health services are truly intended to be? Not there to deal with irresponsible people who live in complete disregard of their health, but to work together with us all, supporting us to live well, not just fix our issues and problems.

  6. I really like the clear, direct and common-sensical approach of this presentation of what dentistry could be, and actually is in truth. As patients we have disempowered ourselves, handing the reins of our own health to our health professionals. Granted, there is also a reluctance from some health professional to hand the reins back if we do decide to be responsible for our own health and wellbeing, however, for the most part it is more that we are refusing to take responsibility as it will involve making changes that we might not be willing to take. Then it’s far easier to blame the dentist for our own disregard and absolute irresponsibility.

  7. ‘What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health and were able to see that dentistry was merely there to support them?’ Rachel this is a great question as so often dentists are seen as being there to fix something rather being able to empower the patient to take responsibility for their own dental care.

  8. Brilliant Rachel, it is up to us to take responsibility for our dental care, our health and our well being through our everyday choices and how we choose to live. It is not just about focusing on one aspect of care but to encompass love and care in all aspects and in all that we do to nurture our body and life back to true health and harmony

  9. “The concept that we have a responsibility for our own choices, health and self-care and that we are more than simply flesh and bone” is common sense and perfectly clear.
    We all need to take responsibility for all aspects of our lives, working in partnership with health professionals.
    Thank you Rachel for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

  10. Great blog Rachel, highlighting that we need to take responsibility for all aspects of our lives, obviously including dental care.
    “the way we live day to day and the state of our being are just as important as brushing and flossing our teeth.”

  11. As naive as it sounds it hadn’t occurred to me that “As dentists our aim should be to be involved as partners in people’s health care,” of course it should! I am not a dentist, I am one of the partners in that healthcare, but I have to question how I did not get that before… I am the one who is with myself 24 hours in the day, I need to be responsible for my healthcare 24 hours a day and work in partnership to address any maintenance.

    1. Great comment Lucy, we certainly do need to take responsibility for our own health 24/7. Our choices can either contribute to healing or harming our body.

  12. “the way we live day to day and the state of our being are just as important as brushing and flossing our teeth.”
    This should be hanging in every dental practice there is. The way we live and the state of our being determines the choices we make and the quality we do everything in, including brushing and flossing.

  13. I found your article very interesting and agree with your words, ” As Dentists our aim should be to be involved as partners in peoples health care, advising patients on their responsibility for their own oral health”. We see responsibility coming into all areas of our lives. Really important not to expect someone else to do it for us!

  14. I really enjoyed reading this article Rachel. I love the care and consideration it is written with as you’re not blaming or saying anyone is wrong, you’re just pointing out how we can be more responsible and in effect be in the drivers’ seat of our lives.

  15. “This awareness, as presented at length by Serge Benhayon, makes for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing…” this awareness can in fact be applied to all professions, whether directly health care related or not and is based on the understanding that everything we do affects our health and well-being. In this regard, what better way to support our health and well-being than consider the quality and care in which we live…!

  16. Rachel as I ponder my history with dental health I can honestly say that it has been one of irresponsibilty. As a child I was always at the dentist suffering all manner of treatment, from fillings to having teeth removed because my mouth was ‘too crowded’. So I gave up on myself and just thought bad teeth was my lot. I now realise that there is a lot more to the quality of our teeth than just the brushing, and have learned a lot about myself and the way I live from my teeth. I agree that if dentists could incorporate the simple practical tips on self-care into their living practce it would help everyone, because they reflect that level of responsibility to the clients who ultimately are the only ones who can decide to care for themselves or not.

  17. Having just come from the dentist, a crown done, and teeth cleaned from the dental
    hygienist, I pondered on my responsibility for my own oral hygiene and lifestyle choices, that would ensure that my next 6 month visit would be confirming of how lovingly I am looking after myself, instead of leaving it up to the dentist to “fix it”.

  18. To me our teeth and oral hygienics are solely the responsibility of ourselves and we have to work in close co-operation with our dentist who can assist greatly to keep our teeth in optimum health. As this is not yet the way people tend to take the responsibility for their health in their own hands your job will be twofold, by doing the half years check and repairs, and in the same time informing your clients about the fact that taking care for their teeth is, as taking care for their overall health, part of their lifestyle and the way they live.

  19. Teeth seem to get largely ignored when it comes to people’s health. The idea, as you say, that it’s normal to turn up every six months (and I suspect the majority don’t even do that) and along with having the teeth cleaned to have a filling or two is ludicrous. It’s amazing that it doesn’t occur to us when it is so obvious and “in our face” (so to speak) that so many can’t see the irresponsibility in this.

  20. How much sooner would health issues be addressed if as patients we took responsibility for the life choices that led to our health issues/concerns. By blaming someone or something we remain as we are, we are not at fault so we don’t have to change is the arrogant thinking. All the while the issue escalates. By taking responsibility for what comes my way in the various degrees I have, I find the more I claim my part in the situation and change my part the situation changes equally so. To blame is to stay static and that’s when things stagnate.

  21. Thanks Rachel. You really make us think about the difference it would make if we truly took full responsibility for our own health. How many of us ‘leave it to the professionals’? How could anyone be more professional than us regarding our own bodies? This scapegoat approach leaves us off the hook, so that we don’t have to admit that it is our doing that our bodies are in such poor form, and we can carry on trashing ourselves and leave the ‘fixing up’ to someone else.
    That’s no way to live, at least it is no way I choose to live anymore, because as you say, there is somethng very empowering about taking responsibility for yourself.

  22. Dentistry is one of the health professions which actually told me how it was, at the time what it was; too many lollies. I’m so glad my dentist advocated to me to take responsibility for my oral health. I now have the best opportunity to have a long life of great oral health.

  23. “Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.- “This comment made me think how much we judge certain areas of our life and give them less focus and attention. It is as though our teeth care is less than other parts of our body. It’s because it is not on the surface and hidden away that we fell we can get away with it. If it was our arm we were taking a bit out of and filling up each time I am sure we would look at it differently.

  24. Rachel great blog, your question ‘Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.’ is so telling, I never considered that but it’s true, we treat a visit to the dentist (in many cases) as a ‘fix it now’ but do not do enough to look at our day to day living, and that is where the gold is. By the time we get to the dentist’s office we are at the end of a way of living that led to how our teeth are, but if we took more active responsibility with how we live and stopped leaning on the prop of the dentist, that would be so empowering and place the responsibility where it truly lies with us. Our teeth and gums reflect how we live and our dentists are there to support us in their care, not to prop up our lack of care.

  25. Great questions Rachel, ‘What would occur if the prop of blaming the professional is removed?’ I see and hear this so often, that it is the doctors or dentists fault for not noticing something earlier or for getting a diagnosis wrong, there is often little responsibility taken by the patient for their own health, it is common for us to give our power away to doctors and dentists and not observe and keep check of how our health is for ourselves. With general health and dental health declining it is important to ask these questions and for us all to take responsibility for our own health and well being.

  26. This is an outstanding article calling for the consideration and application of personal responsibility. The ‘just fix me’ mentality of today is prolific, so this article will be revolutionary to many who are being offered a chance to recognise the part they can play in their own healthcare. In doing so they can now look to support themselves and the system on which they currently solely rely on, through recognising the power they hold in their daily choices.

  27. It is definitely time we took responsibility for our own health, including the health and well being of our teeth. It feels very much as if there is a place in education to give children a great start at understanding the importance of taking responsibility.

  28. “What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health?” – there would be a revolution in the levels of health and well being globally. It is such a simple concept yet made, so consistently accessible by the presentations of Universal Medicine.

  29. Amazing article Rachel, from reading this I have really got a sense of how little time I would spend at a dentist, so looking after my oral health is so important. Although I may brush my teeth 2 – 3 times a day and floss every now and then, I still do not bring the depth of attention to it like I can feel that you do. It’s super inspiring. I’m realising how every aspect of our health is so important and it’s so silly to be putting something more important then another or bringing less and more quality to different aspects of our health and wellbeing.

  30. Thank you for questioning this belief that regular dental visits with the odd filling here and there, or most likely every visit if truth be told, are actually how it ought to be. Again, ‘normal’ is not natural and were we to take responsibility for our oral health, the emphasis would be much more on prevention, true prevention that is including the needed lifestyle choices in regard foods and beverages consumed especially.

  31. I hadn’t really considered it before, but dental health is one area where prevention is at least spoken about and is considered a key part in dental health. Other areas of healthcare, this isn’t as obvious or as much attention given to prevention.

  32. It’s true that so often we hand the responsibility of our health over to health professionals so that they can fix us. For a truly well being, the responsibility needs to be taken by the being and the practitioner works with them for their optimal health. How lovely for the practitioner to be working with patients who are in collaboration with them and how lovely for the patient to be seen and felt as an equal partner.

  33. ‘Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure?’. Crazy how much we take for granted. This line really stood out for me. I have relatively healthy teeth, or so I have fooled myself into believing to shirk responsibility for them. I recently went to the dentist after it being 5 years, yes 5, since my last visit. Apart from a good dentist’s clean, I didn’t need anything else, and I felt smug that I got away with it. However, the fact that I have had some work done in the past is starting to show up and it is something I will need to keep a close eye on. So really, I haven’t got away with anything. If the same amount of work was the equivalent to minor surgery on my body, then actually, that’s quite significant. I am really starting to appreciate my body as a whole, and choosing to see that every part of it has an equally important role to play in my wellbeing.

  34. No professional had ever given me an explanation for my ongoing dental problems. The best answer I could get was that some people are just plain unlucky and I accepted that fact like a sentence.Through Universal Medicine I have learnt self-responsibility. The state of my teeth is but a reflection of the way I have lived until now and although I cannot reverse the damage caused, I may be able to arrest it by the loving choices I make daily. My teeth belong to me so I care for them the way I do my body. I no longer sit in the dentist chair giving my power away in a fatalistic way.

    1. Taking responsibility is truly empowering, we give our power away when we do not choose this. Awesome to read comment Patricia.

  35. Responsibility definitely needs to lie with the patient, and even though there is much information from our practitioners, there is a lot of information and understanding we can research for ourselves. I had no idea how much my dental and oral health affected my whole body, so I educated myself, and it was extraordinary! I now am strict with six monthly visits and I pay close attention to my daily oral routines. It does make the world of difference.

    1. That’s awesome Jo and so inspiring! thank you for sharing that. I can feel your commitment to your Oral health and hearing from you how it really makes a difference is what inspires me because it’s coming from someone who is not a dentist. This will be very accessible to many people because they will know you are not trying to promote your profession but rather speaking the truth of what you live.

  36. Rachel not only does it seem common sense for us all to take the health of our whole body into our own hands it actually seems odd when you truly consider that we could think that another person is actually going to be able to truly care for us despite how we treat ourselves on a day to day level.

    1. I agree Alexis, for people to give up on their own self care and then look to or expect medical professionals to alleviate the pain and suffering that is carried by this irresponsibility should no longer be an option if we are really going to get to the root of our ills.

  37. A very clear and super supportive message Rachel; that we are all responsibile for our health and our oral health, it is that simple, and our body is our guide in communicating with us what it needs and if we listen, it has much to tell us on what true reponsibility is; taking care of our own needs first.

    1. Yes, this is very supportive Jacqmcfadden04. I agree, it is so simple and logical to take responsibility of our health and oral health. I also realise that taking care of our own needs first unfortunately isn’t the norm in society, especially due to a choice to disconnect from our body and ourselves leading us to focus more on what’s around us instead of what is within us.

  38. It is so, that true responsibility needs to be taken by ourselves first, for all aspects of our lives, including health and oral health. Relying on the medical profession to fix us is giving our power away, it’s saying we don’t want to be responsible, we don’t know how to be responsible, we want you to be responsible for us. Dentists and other Medical professionals with all their outstanding skills are an amazing support for us and can give us helpful advice, but they are not there to solve our problems for us. It is our choice.

  39. I love how you have presented that we are becoming more aware that there is more to us than our physicality that what we have previously thought. And with this awareness we then need to adjust the way we do things to support this evolving awareness. As what we have been taught has come from an ‘old school of thought’ so to speak. Esoteric Ageless Wisdom presented by Serge Benhayon offers a way, an opportunity for both practitioner and patient to understand the role that they have in being responsible for returning to and maintaining their health and well-being. A way that includes all of who we are, how we are choosing to live and essentially empowering us – the patient – with the awareness that the choice of our health and well-being is in our own hands with the support of our medical practitioners when needed.

    1. While reading your comment Carola, I had the memory of people getting ill and saying “why is this happening to me?”. It seems to be the catch cry of our irresponsible way of living. As you said, how we are choosing to live, with awareness, is empowering the patient. This is exactly what is needed, to take our health well and truly into our own hands. No looking around for ‘who/what did this to me’, the responsibility lies firmly with ourselves.

  40. Removing ‘ the prop of blaming the professional’ is a huge consciousness that cuts across just about all professions, including my own. It seems to be a rather too consistent approach for anyone who wants to victimise themselves and refuse to accept responsibility for their own health, finances, education etc etc. What is it about the consideration of responsibility that elucidates this ‘prop me up’ mentality? it can be fun taking responsibility, as well as being healthier and more logical.

    1. Great point Coleen, I can see how this is a big issue across so many professions. It’s like the professionals seemingly have total responsibility for someone and their results, whereas they really don’t. They do not control the way someone is living and the way someone lives has the biggest impact on the results that they get throughout their life.

  41. Rachel, this article has not dated and provides a wonderful reminder to both feel for ones self and claim our own part in the care of our gums and teeth. I can observe how many rules I have had about how and when to clean my teeth and have only recently begun to become more aware of the choices I have to bring a deeper level of care to this. I am finding dental hygiene much more fun as I now begin to choose this for myself rather than because ‘I have been told to and this is how it must be done’!

  42. Dentistry has certainly changed over the years – my experience has always been ‘drill and fill’ with not one once of self responsibility. Mind you there wasn’t much education back then either. Now a days taking care of my teeth is all part of self care and self responsibility for better health. With this I am being educated on mouth hygiene, which is great to actually be actively involved in the outcome of my teeth. Thank you Rachel.

  43. I wholeheartedly agree we need to be better educated to take personal responsibility for the health of our teeth (and body’s). Thank you for your enlightening and important Blog, Rachel.

  44. I love this blog Rachel, it’s an anti promotion for your business in one way but at the same time not. It’s saying sure I can help but you can also help yourself. It’s like an invite for a co-operative relation towards dental health. But it’s also bigger than that. It’s bringing in a new dimension when it comes to the relationship between practitioner and client. That the practitioner isn’t the one having all the answers but the answers will come when both are working towards the same goal. For true healing to occur.

    1. Thank you Rachel and Matts. I agree the more collaboration between Universal Medicine and Conventional Medicine, the better off clients will be. Having a greater awareness of the responsibilities for our own health as presented by Serge Benhayon, will also contribute to our well being.

      1. I love what you have shared Matts and Greg. The effort is then being put in on both ends and not all being left up to the health practitioner. It’s so beautiful knowing that Rachel is not just out to get more clients and be successful in business, she actually has a REAL care for people and their dental health and that really comes through in her blog. She is the kind of dentist I would book in to see!

  45. After reading your article I understand that how we live day by day and making more self loving choices is truly all a support in our dental care and in whole body care.
    Thank you Rachel.

  46. “And what if the excuse of having regular check-ups as a justification for a lack of regular and effective self-care no longer held sway?” Great question Rachel. The health of our teeth and our body is the result of our day to day choices. Thank you for this article and highlighting that going to the dentist is a support and that true care for our selves requires self responsibility. I have found that this starts with allowing myself to develop a deeply caring and supportive relationship with my body. This has supported me to know that my daily choices have an impact on my health and wellbeing.

    1. I feel those regular check ups are an opportunity to improve our self care, not an excuse for handing over the responsibility of looking after our teeth to the dentist.

    2. I agree Bianca this is such a great question for Rachel to ask of us. I had always blamed the dentist for the pain I endured whilst sitting in the dental chair but realising that my own personal choices caused my teeth to require a lot of treatment is solely my responsibility and highlighted there was a level of self-care that I had not been embracing. I’m deeply beginning to appreciate the self-loving decisions for myself that I am now choosing regarding my wellbeing.

  47. This would be a win win for everyone. Each person, the health practitioner and the community as a whole.

    1. Yes – this does extend the relationships out to others and offers the opportunity of communication, sharing of information as well as understanding and insight.

    2. Yes, this would benefit everyone, especially as our health system which is not coping, if people took more care and responsibility with their teeth, maybe this understanding could then spread to all the other areas of the overburdened health system, where the same concept of responsibility applies.

    3. Exactly Jennifer. An absolute win for EVERYONE involved, and yet somehow we continue to make other choices. I wonder what a difference it would make if we were better educated about the need for self responsibility. An ingrained truth would be far more worthwhile than the poor habit of neglect.

  48. Thank you Rachel for pointing out clearly that when it comes to dental health we need to take responsibility with how we look after our teeth, diet and lifestyle, and not leave it up to the dentist to “fix it”.
    Everything we do is either healing or harming, and contributes to our wellbeing or illness and disease.

    1. I too enjoyed the clarity of this message from Rachel, really spells it out loud and clear, that it is our daily choices that count and not just the skill of the dentist. Working co-creatively together with the dentist, instead of dentistry being something that is done to you a couple of times a year that will fix you up.

    2. This is such an important message to convey: “Everything we do is either healing or harming”. It should be at the forefront of any medical practitioner discussion with patients.

      1. Well said Josephine… it’s not about the skills of the dentist.. it’s about our daily choices to look after our Oral health. It’s actually quite irresponsible to not look after ourselves thinking that we have so many health practitioners that can fix us up.

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