Time to give something back

My working week is divided between clinical work and writing and researching from home. I spend two days in a private practice in Primrose Hill, north London, and three days working from mycomputer at my house. On clinic days it’s an early 6.30am start. I live in Cambridgeshire so this means an 80-mile journey. I commuted by train for 15 years, but the last four years I have travelled in by car. The train became too expensive, dirty, crowded – as well as unreliable in the winter – so I finally gave up. Driving in can take anything between one hour 20 mins on a good day to two-and-a-half hours on a bad day.

I see my first patient at around 9.30am and work through to 5-5.30pm, taking a half-hour lunch break anywhere between 12.30 and 2pm. It is important to me to be working in practice as this gives me the motivation and inspiration to continue to write and research in the area of nutrition and oral health. I have been with my practice now for nearly 20 years and my patients are absolute stars. They have been with me throughout my training as a nutritionist in 1993 and have faithfully tried all my suggestions through the years – as have my band of girlfriends, who have patiently listened to my tales of horror about refined carbohydrates and  trans fatty acids. None of us have been able to look a cream cake or plate of chips in the face for years.

Night owl
I am definitely not a morning person. I am more of a night owl – some of my best writing has been done between midnight and 3am. The house is quiet and the internet seems to run faster, which gives me the ability to really focus on what I am trying to convey. When I am working from home I try to get to my computer by 9.30am and start by dealing with many of my emails straight away. I consult my calendar to see what article deadlines I have looming. I’m much better when I have a deadline to meet. An article can take me anything from 5-10 hours to research, reading and checking references and cross-checking facts and figures. If needed, I can work through to the early hours to finish on time. I find this work very rewarding as I am
passionate about the role of nutrition in systemic and oral health.

I am at the stage in my life and career where I can spend the time doing this type of work. In my twenties and thirties, I was working full time in clinic, trying to earn a living. I depended on reading articles in journals for my information as I did not have 10 hours or so to spare to research something. So now that I am in a position to do that, it has given me the opportunity to give something back.

The latest trend in nutrition at the moment seems to be smoothies – people are mad about them. They are perceived to be healthy and therefore the more one consumes the better. This is not always the case. Although smoothies have fresh fruit and fibre in them, they are high in sugar – particularly banana-based ones – and high in fruit acids. They are recommended as counting towards only one portion of our daily fruit and vegetable intake. There is currently a debate between various nutrition bodies and the Government over whether they should count as two portions daily, but no more than this. My recommendation is to limit smoothies to one serving a day and vary the content. Home-made is best, and using vegetables as well will reduce the acid and sugar content. Served cold over ice and drunk through a straw will further reduce the effects on tooth enamel.

“This is an exciting time for hygienists in terms of both the role we play in the profession and the opportunities we now have for personal advancement”

I am just back from the International Association of Dental Research conference in Miami, where people from around the globe involved in dental research meet up. They present their current findings and discuss and debate the outcome of research. This year, there was a significant amount of discussion regarding the systemic effect of oral health on the body, biofilms and also nutritional biochemistry. This has motivated me to get on and do the practice research project I have wanted to do for the last few years, so I will be canvassing my lovely patients again, soon.

On clinic days, I get home from London between 7.30 and 8pm. Sometimes my husband and I will stop by our friends in Hertfordshire and have dinner before we drive home. At home, I usually leave the computer at 6pm and prepare supper for 7-7.30pm. If I have an urgent deadline I will go back and work until the early hours, otherwise bedtime is about 11pm. I am currently addicted to the book, Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine. It is about the tempestuous relationship between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis… fantastic.

This is an exciting time for hygienists in terms of both the role we play in the profession and the opportunities we now have for personal advancement. As the link between systemic and oral health becomes more defined, we will find ourselves at the forefront not only of preventive dentistry but at the cutting edge of preventive medicine. This is why I think compulsory CPD has come at the right moment, enabling us to keep up to date on current thinking and expand our career paths. As hygienists we are now able to have our own practices, – a fantastic opportunity.

With the hygiene qualification also now being offered at degree status, the profile of hygienists among the profession and public has never been better.


Juliette Reeves is speaking at the World Aesthetic Congress on 12-13 June 2009 in London. To book your places call Independent Seminars on 0800 371652 or visit the website www.independentseminars.com/wac.

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