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Dentistry is a Contact Sport: How Diet & Exercise Keeps You in the Game

 

When you throw on your scrubs every morning, you need not worry about a defenceman barreling down the ice looking to bodycheck you into the boards.  

 

You don’t have to concern yourself with an offensive lineman yanking down on your facemask.  

 

And you won’t have a Muay Thai boxer trying to kick out your legs. 

 

Yet, all the same, if you’re a dental professional, you’re participating in a contact sport – and similar to an athlete playing a dangerous game, you must protect yourself. 

 

Your equipment helps a lot, of course. Namely, ergonomic correctness with your tools is of the essence, just like helmets and elbow pads are crucial on the hockey rink, for instance. 

 

However, treating your body with care is more critical than any material item in the long run.  

 

Specifically, your durability and longevity in the dental industry will rely significantly on your diet and exercise habits.

 

Why Is Dentistry So Hard On Your Health?

 

Business Insider reports dentistry as the 2nd most detrimental profession to its practitioner’s health.  

 

Dental professionals face heightened exposure to infections, diseases, and contaminants. Then there’s the matter of all the sitting required, and the manual labour involved. 

 

The physical toll is compounded by the increased dental problems for everyday people, meaning you have more patients. Your resulting heightened workload exposes you to risks of musculoskeletal disorders, which chiefly impact the backs, necks, and hands of dental professionals.

 

Here are the risks factors involved in your work leaving you most vulnerable:

  • Twisting your trunk repetitively and without direction causes repetitive stress: 
    - The micro-traumas caused by these repetitive movements trigger swelling, made worse by too few rest periods in dentistry. 
  • Maintaining prolonged static/awkward working postures: 
    - These less-than-ideal postures can lead to discomfort, pain, muscle necrosis, or disability conducive to musculoskeletal disorders. 
  • Reduced core strength and flexibility leading to muscle imbalances: 
    - Even if you maintain sound posture, your joints and muscles suffer since you stay in certain positions for so long. The resulting change in biomechanics causes tightness in one muscle group and weakness in the opposite group.

Stay In The Game By Prioritizing Fitness And Diet

 

Below, we’ll detail how prioritizing and improving your overall fitness and diet will add longevity to your career, thereby increasing your earnings before retiring from your practice:

 

1. Reducing the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

 

Before moving forward, let’s highlight the symptoms of metabolic syndrome:  

  • High blood pressure 
  • High levels of waist fat 
  • Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol

We’ll assume you’re more than familiar with type 2 diabetes, but here’s a link for a further explanation.

 

Obesity or being overweight are the common symptoms of these two conditions, although it’s not necessarily a requirement for either affliction. Still, food is a factor in preventing or developing these diseases. Furthermore, exercise helps stave off diabetes because it burns excess calories. Conversely, if you already have type 2 diabetes, exercise helps neutralize and control your condition. 

 

While there are diabetes-specific diets, recent research suggests focusing on high-fat, low-carb meals might be your best course of action.

 

2. Bolstering Your Mental Health And Well-Being

 

Depression affects almost 20% of all Canadians, according to recent statistics.
 

Provided you suffer from this condition or a similar mental illness, we must stress the importance of seeking professional help – it can pay significant long-term dividends.

 

Beyond professional treatment, you can use other strategies to help yourself, such as partaking in regular exercise, a proven method to soothe mild depression and anxiety. 

 

When you partake in rigorous physical activities, it releases endorphins that often trigger positive feelings. You’ll feel satisfied after completing your exercise, whether a hike, skipping rope, playing tennis, etc., which often leads to improved mental health and a better sense of well-being. 

 

For instance, after a long day of seeing patients, running can help clear your mind, eliminating any brain fog. 

 

It only takes an hour of light-intensity exercise during the week to help offset depression symptoms, says Psychology Today. In fact, according to other studies, it’s possible to experience mental health benefits with under 60-minutes of exercise per week. A simple 10-minute walk per day could do the trick! 

 

Again, we’ll stress that exercise isn’t a cure-all for depression. It will definitely help, but some cases are too severe and require medical care.

 

3. Strengthening Bones and Muscles

 

Sure, calcium has its benefits, but there are limits to its bone-strengthening capabilities.  

 

You’ll better cover your bases by performing resistance exercises, as it places enough stress on your bones to fortify them over the long term. 

 

The benefits start with your career in dentistry, as you’ll better withstand the physical duress on the job. The advantages then extend to your overall quality of life because the bone and muscle strength you develop will prevent aging-related decline. 

 

Soon after you start resistance training (with proper form), you’ll notice a reduction in your everyday soreness. 

 

The constant motion acts almost as oil for your joints, allowing for more unrestricted movement, conducive to continued strength training. In other words, starting such a regimen is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You give yourself the fuel to keep going. 

 

Increasing strength in your muscles and bones also prevents falls once you’re at the age when you’re most at risk. You’ll be able to play with your grandchildren well into your golden years without causing any lingering pain. 

 

Additionally, you should add cardiovascular exercise for blood flow and coordination. 

 

4. Other Benefits Of Prioritizing Exercise and Diet

 

If the other reasons for frequent exercise haven’t really spoken to you, the fact that it can reduce the risk of multiple cancers should make your ears perk up. 

 

To the above point, moderate exercise can modify colon and breast cancer, although how this happens hasn’t entirely been determined. It’s hypothesized that frequent exercise is crucial in moving stool through the colon, reducing cancer risks. With breast cancer, it’s believed that related hormones modify via exercise. 

 

Also, specific fats in blood vessels, smoking, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure put you at risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Unsurprisingly then, your diet can go far in preventing these risk factors, whereas exercise can: 

  • Bolster capillary and mitochondria formation 
  • Reduce blood pressure 
  • Decrease blood sugar

Simple Changes to Diet and Exercise Can Give You Your Health Back

 

Being that you’re a dental professional, we want you to consider fitness and diet through the lens of running a dental practice. 

 

Practices can only run optimally when you take care of your (high quality) equipment, hone your marketing, provide the best bedside manner, and keep developing your skillset. These components are investments of either time, money, or effort – or a combination of them – that pay off in the long run. 

 

Your body is much the same, and it’s as crucial to a dental practice’s success as the above facets. Your investment in optimizing your body will pay off in your longevity in the industry and overall quality of life. 

 

We understand how it’s not always easy to prioritize your own well-being, given that you’re hyperfocused on your patients. Every workday can be incredibly draining. But it starts with simple steps, and eventually, before you know it, you’ll feel in firm control of your health! 

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