Total wellness care

July 10, 2013
We often hear information about the oral-systemic link. Whether it is about diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or other systemic conditions, dental professionals are at the forefront ...

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MED, FADIA, FAADH

We often hear information about the oral-systemic link. Whether it is about diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or other systemic conditions, dental professionals are at the forefront of educating patients about these connections.

All team members need to be aware of these links, and Laurie Samuels, RDH, CHC, has developed a program entitled, "Hygienists for Total Health and Wellness" to promote the wellness connection. Even though the title is for hygienists, the program is designed as an in-office program for the entire dental team. Any team that is health-focused and wants to provide patients with the information and tools necessary is the perfect candidate for the program.

Patients need to understand that what they do affects the people around them. When they make positive changes in their lives, their families, friends, and coworkers emulate them and may also make positive changes in their lives. Healthy behaviors are fostered and grown, and dental professionals can be the motivation for that to occur.

Laurie's in-office program consists of an initial phone consultation with the doctor and team members. This call establishes the goals of the practice for health and wellness promotion. Following that, each team member submits an optional short, confidential questionnaire about their health status and beliefs. Laurie then visits and observes the practice operations in the morning, and then provides in-depth health coaching in the afternoon.

The goals of Laurie's program are to:

  • Develop team confidence in discussing general health issues with patients
  • Identify patients who are interested in learning self-care recommendations
  • Provide effective team communication and recommendations
  • Establish in-office protocols for monitoring patients
  • Build stronger patient bonds
  • Increase practice revenue.

Her in-office program is tailored to the individual needs and goals of the practice because her programs are not one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter presentations. They provide the practice with a blueprint for moving forward to achieve better health for themselves and their patients.

Laurie can provide personal health coaching, whether a 90-day weekly intensive program or a six-month biweekly program. She can also provide virtual online programs specifically designed for the needs of the client, for example, weight loss or cleansing programs. She also presents wellness programs for associations or business groups.

Laurie feels the entire team benefits from her programs since they learn information to improve their own health. The knowledge gained in their individual health and wellness journeys empowers team members to actively support others in their health improvement goals.

Dentistry plays a unique role in overall patient wellness, and Laurie believes that the public should be educated about that role. Hygienists in particular spend more time with patients than any other health-care provider, and they have a great opportunity to create a powerful shift in the health of the country.

Laurie's programs contain handouts not as a repeat of the presentation, but rather as adjuncts with more health information such as reading lists, websites, or healthy recipes. She incorporates PowerPoint presentations and discussions throughout her sessions and encourages small group activities.

Laurie is a graduate of the Miami Dade College dental hygiene program, and she practiced clinically for 30 years. Her interest in health and wellness occurred many years before she entered hygiene school, when her father suffered a heart attack when she was just 10 years old. For the rest of his life, her father was constantly sick and on a downward spiral that caused him and the entire family stress. Many of her other family members also suffered from chronic degenerative diseases.

During her hygiene studies, Laurie learned that the body has a propensity for healing itself under the right circumstances. She truly believed this and wanted to educate others. In 2010, her dream became a reality when she graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a certified health coach. She created her website,, as a dedication to her parents -- her father, Manny, who was the impetus for her quest and curiosity for good health, and her mother, Bella, who kept him nourished as best she could. Laurie took something stressful, scary, and negative, and turned it into something positive and powerful to impact those around her.

Laurie is a member of ADHA, International Association for Health Coaches, American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and American Academy of Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH). She is concerned about passionate hygienists who are unable to find work. Due to neck issues, she can no longer practice clinically, and she is also concerned about hygienists who are not practicing ergonomically to maintain their health. When she practiced clinically, Laurie often told her patients that there was not anything they could do to change what happened before they entered her operatory, but if they wanted something different and better, and if they were committed, she could help them change their dental habits and create a healthy, beautiful smile. She shares that theory today with her health-coaching clients.

Good health has a ripple effect, like a pebble dropped into a still pond; the concentric rings represent the effect that someone has on those around them. Laurie's goal is to have everyone she touches live a longer life, be the healthiest they can be, and be able to enjoy life to its fullest and not be "medically managed." Are you and your practice ready to provide patients with total wellness care to improve their oral and systemic health?

For more information about Laurie's programs contact her at Laurie@

Thought for the month: Don't dream your life; live your dream. -Laurie Samuels RDH

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"Oral Health Care During Chemotherapy." Readers of RDH magazine will receive 50% off the regular price of $49, which is $24.50 after discount, when using code ANMAY513.


Oral side effects are commonplace with cancer chemo and adjunctive therapies. Intravenous bisphosphonate therapy can lead to osteonecrosis, especially after a tooth extraction or oral surgery. Scheduled cleanings should be performed every six months or quarterly, as well as compliance with meticulous home oral hygiene, depending on risk factors and the patient's health. Chemotherapy can cause a host of oral side effects, including hypersensitivity due to discomfort and pain, ulcerated gingival tissues, impaired taste buds, erosion of tooth enamel due to vomiting, and mucositis. The primary method of treating mucositis is palliative therapy. Therapy includes home oral hygiene, pain control, oral mouth rinses, and palliation of dry mouth. It is important for dental hygienists to be aware of these side effects and how to counsel their patients appropriately.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].

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