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IMPACT! The DIVERSITY Issue 2020: Embrace the Uncertainty: Choose HEALTH!

IMPACT! The DIVERSITY Issue 2020:  Embrace the Uncertainty: Choose HEALTH!
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Embrace the Uncertainty: Choose HEALTH!

“It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives that leads to the greatest transformation of our souls.”

~ Brandon A. Trean, health educator

MY SPIN on the above quote would be this: If history has taught us anything, it’s not to underestimate the potentials of man for good or for bad; it is their reactions to adversity that determine the future we will hold.

Pretend it is September 10, 2001. What would you be doing and where are you headed on this particular day? Me, I would be driving—near or slightly over the speed limit—headed from Omaha to Lincoln and consumed by my senior year of dental school. I am stressed and nervous, determined to master my skills as graduation is quickly approaching. With assurance, I can say I am oblivious to the concept of pending war or the reality that thousands of innocent people will be killed at the hands of terrorists the following day. I am simply immersed in my routine, in my personal struggles, going through the motions…like I am guessing most of you were.

Now, recall September 11, 2001. Is your answer quite different? Personally, I will never forget how eerily quiet the student lounge was that day. One by one we gathered around the television watching as the planes collided with the twin towers over and over again. The disbelief, grief, shock and fear could be felt collectively.

Likewise, the details of my fourth-grade classroom are etched in my mind. A similar gathering around a small AV cart, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor. All eyes are glued to the small screen, excited to watch the Challenger blast off with the first-ever Teacher in Space teacher onboard. Then disaster, the explosion, the chaos follows.

In September 2020 our world continues to feel heavy and uncertain. The pandemic lingers, requiring our children to wear masks in school (if they are allowed to attend “in-person” school), Nebraska football is canceled, travel to many parts of the world is banned, people are isolated and not permitted to touch one another—nothing seems normal. There is a palpable tension in the air as opinions flare and propaganda thickens in light of the upcoming presidential election.

So how do we “embrace this uncertainty”? How do we use this point in time as a means to “transform our souls”?

My opinion is this: Let history be our teacher and logic over fear be our guide. We experienced the grief of pure evil on September 11, 2001, but evil did not prevail. We faced great tragedy when the Challenger exploded, but scientists continued to learn and innovate improving designs and pushing forward. 2020 should be no different.

My underlying philosophy is in life is the belief that the gratitude, compassion, and logical understanding are always the way. As controversy mounts around us, I believe in the power of logic to understand the science surrounding the coronavirus and compassionate realism to evaluate recommended behavior. I believe that fear-based decision making will only lead to chaos and exaggerated uncertainty. By following the recommendations that coincide with your core values, you can work towards transformation of your soul.

As a health-centered dentist and business owner, my approach is to wear a mask, as I always have, and sterilize my office to meet CDC and OSHA protocols, also as I always have. I will continue to provide an environment that is safe for my patients, my team, and myself. But on the flip side, I will also educate my patients on how to control the risk factors that are within their control, minimizing the threat of severe viral illness and promoting systemic health.

For example: inflammation. According to Healthline, “Chronic inflammation refers to a response by your immune system that sticks around long after an infection, injury, or exposure to a toxin.”

Translation: our bodies are consistently fighting toxins that we as a culture knowingly ingest into our systems daily. This overuse of our immune system fosters chronic inflammation which leads to health conditions like heart disease, continual upper respiratory infections, arthritis, diabetes, etc. Understanding that inflammation is present in all disease, viruses included, is paramount.

By choosing to care for your dental health, you are giving your dentist the opportunity to identify inflammation in your mouth and formulate a treatment plan. Periodontal disease, gingivitis, untreated decay, and overall poor oral hygiene are sources of inflammation within the oral cavity. As a health-centered dentist, I will continue to teach individuals how to control inflammation in the mouth through improved homecare, professional dental cleanings and sound dentistry knowing they will receive a systemic benefit as well.

Now, take this a step further. I will also logically and compassionately discuss the risk of processed food like fast food, energy drinks and soda as sources of toxins that increase inflammation in the body especially when consumed daily. I will praise the benefits of water, veggies, fruits, and plant-based protein. I will respect my patients as individuals, sharing personal stories and struggles that have helped me and my family live a healthier lifestyle. In addition, I will passionately discuss the benefits of healthy sleep, nasal breathing, and consistent exercise to further mitigate the risk of viral infection, COVID-19 included.

By learning to control things within our control, we can eradicate fear-based behavior and live according to logic and compromise once again. Remember, history is an excellent teacher.

As a nation, we have persevered through tragedy and evil. As Americans, we have made decisions based on our founding philosophies and values. In this crazy 2020, let’s unite, focused on logic, compassion and gratitude that tomorrow will come, this virus will end, and that our future will be better than it is today.

Dr. Stephanie Vondrak is board certified by the American Academy of Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine to treat patients suffering from sleep apnea with sleep apnea appliances.

IMPACT! with Stephanie Vondrak, D.D.S. - The DIVERSITY Issue 2020:

Embrace the Uncertainty: Choose HEALTH!