Finding a Better Way 

In recent years, dentists, physicians, and the public have become highly aware of the interrelationships among occlusion, oral inflammation, airway problems, and systemic health. As dentists, we’ve stretched our care domain to coordinate patient care across all settings of care. Often, we are dismayed at the growing prevalence of chronic diseases among our aging patients. We want to help improve their lives. We know of ways to do this.

To do our best for our patients, it does matter if the patient has diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, gastric reflux, or poor nutrition. It does matter if we want to be master problem solvers in collaboration with our medical colleagues. Looking for oral and systemic health interrelationships every day with every patient is a basic element of many dental practices. Collaboration with physicians is a basic element of my practice.

Has your approach to patient care extended into at least the first phase of integrative dental medicine? This is the phase of sincerely asking the Why questions and searching for solutions. While I was in practice with Dr. Pete Dawson, for 40 years, I heard him say, “We’re going to ask why about problems until we don’t have to ask why anymore.” He called this “finding a better way.”

The 3 Pillars of Integrative Dental Medicine

In 2019, Dr. Shanley Lestini and I published a book titled The Shift: The Dramatic Movement Toward Health Centered Dentistry. In this endeavor, we were fortunate to have the support and input of two of the world’s most preeminent clinicians and educators, Dr. Peter E. Dawson and Dr. Bradly Bale. It was our goal to influence dentists and medical physicians toward fostering solutions together for their mutual patients in three pillar areas of integrative dental medicine:

  1. TMD and Occlusion
  2. Inflammation & Infection
  3. Breathing and Sleep Disorders

Finding a Better Way Is Up to All of Us

My goal in this essay is to fuel your passion for operationalizing what we all know will make us better doctors – that which will enable us to be truly health-centered dentists. It comes down to relentless curiosity about the causes of diseases, the modalities for eliminating those causes, and how our best “individualized” efforts with a patient will have the greatest positive impact on the prevention, elimination, and management of health conditions that adversely affect their quality of life.

“We’re going to ask why about problems until we don’t have to ask why anymore.” – Peter E. Dawson, DDS

In this era of heightened awareness surrounding the intricate connections between oral health, overall wellness, and the growing prevalence of chronic diseases, we, as healthcare providers, find ourselves at a crossroads. It is our commitment to improve the lives of our patients that propels us forward. Embracing the principles of Integrative Dental Medicine (IDM) beckons us to explore the “Why” questions and seek innovative solutions. Don’t miss your chance to embark on a journey that redefines the boundaries of healthcare with the upcoming course “Integrative Dental Medicine: Creating Healthier Patients & Practices” – for more information visit the course page.

DeWitt Wilkerson, DMD

The majority of dentists have similar clinical concerns when diagnosing and treating masticatory problems: What is causing the problem? Is it going to break? Should I even get involved? Will I make it worse? How can I make it better? Dr. Wilkerson’s presentations help dental professionals gain the skills and understanding to become a problem solver and not a problem causer. Dr. DeWitt “Witt” Wilkerson joined Dr. Peter Dawson’s private practice in 1982 where he is a partner. This has provided invaluable clinical experience in a world renowned clinical culture. Dr. Wilkerson lectures world- wide on the subjects of restorative dentistry, dental occlusion, temporomandibular disorders, airway/dental sleep medicine, and integrative dental medicine. He serves as a Senior Faculty/Lecturer and Director of Dental Medicine with the Dawson Academy and has provided 600+ days of lectures and hands on instruction to over 4,000 dentists. His book, The Shift: The Dramatic Movement Toward Health Centered Dentistry, provides a step-by-step guide to implementing complete health through dentistry. Dr. Wilkerson is Past-President of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH) and Past-President of the American Equilibration Society (AES). Additionally, he is pleased to serve as Director of Dental Medicine at the Dawson Academy, Adjunct Professor of Graduate Studies, the University of Florida College of Dentistry, and former Associate Faculty and Special Lecturer, the L.D. Pankey Institute.

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