“New Hat” for the RDH— Oral Systemic Health Educator & Certified Lifestyle Coach

Why would the Complete Health Registered Dental Hygiene team find themselves in inter-professional collaboration with the Certified Lifestyle Coach? The answer begins with understanding that the war raging inside of us is between chronic inflammation and the body’s own host response. We’re not aware of this war because it doesn’t hurt, and we can’t see its effects since it’s going on at a cellular, even a molecular level.

The mouth happens to be a major battleground in this war. Unlike a cut where the inflammatory response leads directly to healing, with periodontal disease there is always an inflammatory bacterial condition in the mouth. Not only can we now identify the oral pathogens associated with periodontal disease using OralDNA® salivary diagnostic testing, but we know that these pathogens are themselves inducing inflammation.

The good news is the periodontium is extremely responsive to healthy lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet rich in fruits & vegetables, exercise and weight management, all which serve to strengthen the body’s host response. Although 88% of individuals classify themselves as at least “somewhat healthy”1, researchers now say that only 2.7% of the U.S. adult population achieves all four of some basic behavioral characteristics that constitute a “healthy lifestyle” and help protect against disease2.

How can we help 2.7% actually become 88%? Sadly most RDH teams find that overloaded treatment time constraints prevent the conversations with their patients about healthy lifestyle choices. This is the RDH scene across our country. There is a movement in many dental and hygiene schools across America introducing their students to a solution to this disturbing trend known as Inter-Professional Collaboration. Last April in Chicago, Dr. Atul Gawande challenged students at an Inter-Professional Collaboration Educational Forum at the University of Illinois Chicago—“We have trained, hired and rewarded people to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews that we need, pit crews for patients3.”

So how do we create a collaborative pit crew to bring healthy lifestyle choices to our dental patients? What would that look like? We agree with a growing number of professionals that the optimal team to address oral health, nutritional health, exercise and weight management is the Complete Health RDH and the Certified Lifestyle Coach.

The Certified Personal Trainer who we are placing in collaboration with Complete Health RDH teams in our communities must have seen this new trend coming. For most of her professional career she has served her community both as a Registered Dental Hygienist and a Certified Personal Trainer giving her the opportunity to “wear the hat” of both a dental service provider and a lifestyle coach business owner.

For the patient, and all of us for that matter, it is much easier to address poor lifestyle choices if we grab hold of the arm and move forward with such a professional who we know and trust and who will continue to partner with us on our journey to create health by making healthy lifestyle choices. And do you think this will have a significant effect on our patients’ overall treatment outcome—both oral and systemic?


  1. Mintel Healthy Lifestyles Survey, October 2017 https://store.mintel.com/us-healthy-lifestyles-market-report
  2. Ellen Smit, PhD, RD Oregon State University, College of Public Health and Human Sciences https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2016/mar/us-adults-get-failing-grade-healthy-lifestyle-behavior
  3. Atul Gawande, MD, MPH Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Samuel O. Their Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School  https://www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine?language=en

***To learn more about Community Lifestyle Network, visit the Protocol Directory***

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Rick Hutchins DDS