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83 – Healthy Enough

Hi. You are listening to The Perio Patient Podcast, and I am Dr. Ben Young, a periodontist in San Antonio Texas. And the reason you are listening, at least to this point, is because you thought this was some other podcast and clicked on it by mistake, or you know me personally, most likely as one of my patients, which is the group this podcast is really produced to reach, or someone sent this to you, in which case I’m sorry, I have people like this in my life too, or you are a person dealing with mouth problems and through a bit of research have ended up here. Whatever the reason, welcome.  

The title of this episode is “Healthy Enough” and I promise, by the end, it will make sense, but hang in there. 

I just came across an article about a dental insurance company who wants to rate dentists. Their purpose for doing this is to direct traffic. My concern is that this has really nothing to do with quality care but simply about some economic purpose of benefit to this particular insurance company. I also think people who are in the search mode on the internet might fall for it, thinking that in some way this is how you can locate the right person to take care of your particular problems.   

I think it is sort of new that this desire to rate practitioners is by a dental insurance company but rankings aren’t new at all in our modern marketing culture especially on the internet. 

One of the biggest mistakes many dentists are making in this marketing world today is ignoring the power of social media and even more importantly, the importance of having their own website. By not having a website for the dental practice creates opportunities for others to market using your data. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say someone wants to find a particular dentist but the dentist doesn’t have a website. When the searcher types in that dentist’s name, they are taken to a dental directory – which is a commercial website that contains the data of as many dental practices as possible. It may have this dentists basic information (that’s how they got you to their website) but now you will see other dentists who happen to have ratings and rankings that imply that they be a better option for you than the one who just has a phone number and street address. It’s all marketing. That’s what you get when you are searching for something and find a website that states, find the top ten (whatever it is) in your neighborhood. This draws you to that site and if you click from there to anything else, very likely this site will be paid by the one listed on the site you clicked to see.  

Now I know, I’m preaching to the choir for many of you because, after all, you are listening to a podcast, but still, it is worth reminding us all that when we seem to be getting something for free (like free help in searching for the right dentist) the reality is we are the product. It is our information being bought and sold in return for this seemingly free service. 

The ability to search for information is helpful and here to stay. So trying to change it is a waste of time – unless you are an entrepreneur with a powerful business plan and lots of money. Which means we have to learn how best to navigate it, while not allowing it to suck us in to believing things that just aint so.  

So now, how can you and I figure out what we are to do and where we are to go after we have typed in search words on search engines, and have read all the reviews and bios? 

Here is my advice for what it is worth.  

How important all of this is depends on who you are – and yes, I’m going to make this binary – you are either one kind of person or the other. You either rely more on experts, even over your own common sense, or you rely more on your own common sense and use experts to make sure you are on the right track.  

If you are someone who relies heavily on experts then what you find online has incredible importance. You will spend a great deal of time trying to figure out who online you can follow – who you can trust, and who you can’t.  

But if you are someone who knows how to take care of yourself, then the interne t is less of a problem. You won’t take it as seriously and you will navigate it differently. For one thing, you won’t spend as much time with it.  

And now, let’s apply this to health and wellness. 

My health philosophy, if you don’t know by now, is that I am primarily responsible for my own health. I will rely on others, including experts to help me, as I seek their input. This allows me to not get so caught up in what I hear or read from any particular source. I’m less inclined to trust credentials and more inclined to gravitate toward those who like to teach, and are willing to take the time to explain and make recommendations. I don’t like people who tell me what I must or mustn’t do. And yes, I’m even comfortable making mistakes, getting things wrong and then correcting, over trying to never make a mistake ever.  

And let me even go a step further about what I personally believe about health – and by contrast, illness or disability. 

I don’t believe in absolute health.  

I believe in a state of living called “healthy-enough.”  

As we age, our physical capacities change, so it is unrealistic to compare a healthy twenty-year-old to a healthy sixty-year-old. Both need to be healthy-enough to do the things they need to do.  

One sign of health I think is to achieve a level of contentment and happiness. Someone can be physically healthy with great blood pressure, cholesterol and the rest and be miserable. Someone else can live as a quadriplegic and radiate contentment and yes, even happiness. If the quadriplegic is generally focused on caring about others and how they are doing along with taking care of themselves the best they can, then I consider them to have achieved a level of healthy-enough. Is this ignoring illness and disabilities? No, but it is not permitting them to define who we are or who we can become.  

Healthy-enough to be happy in life is not easy. In fact it is a lot of work. This is because happiness can never be the goal.  

Happiness is a byproduct of doing the things that bring the most meaning to life and are good for others around us as well. I’m acknowledging the importance of a healthy social network – people who support and encourage one another.  

Which brings me back to my dental brothers and sisters who are not particularly visible on the internet and whose websites aren’t the slickest. Many of them don’t care for a very good reason. It is because they have a community of happy patients who refer others to them. They don’t live on the internet. So just because someone doesn’t have a great website doesn’t mean they are not a great dentist.  

And if dentists decide to do more with their websites and the rest, my biggest advice is for them to stay personally involved so the end product tells their story and shows the public who they really are. They should never allow marketers to define who they are to the public. That’s their job and it’s healthy-enough. 

That’s all I have today.