Episode 45: Every Persons Oral Health is Important with Elizabeth Milford 

Shivani Gupta (00:16)

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Ask Shivani Podcast. I am so excited about having Dr. Elizabeth Milford on today. Not only am I excited because of what she's going to share with us and her passions and her purpose and the amazing work that she's been doing. She also has her own podcast, which we'll speak about, but I live not very far away from Liz. So, it's pretty hilarious. We were joking about this, that we could have been in the same room. But if we were that we definitely would not be getting any work done. So let me tell you a little bit about Liz. Liz is a dentist, which doesn't sound that exciting. But when I tell you more about how you go, this is pretty exciting. She is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, she represents Oral-B and that's what one of our podcasts is about, which I hope that she will tell us about. She is in the role of professional and scientific relations consultant for Australia and New Zealand, which is a pretty big role. She is also an active volunteer for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She's a national speaker, and she shares her passion for putting patients first. And one of the things she hasn't said on a bio that I know about her is that she also is a mother to four children, four beautiful girls. Welcome, Liz.

Elizabeth Milford (01:50)

Thank you Shivani, it is an absolute honor to be on your show, and I have so much enjoyed listening to your podcast. And I'm absolutely thrilled to be one of your lovely guests.

Ask Shivani (02:04)

Oh, this is so nice. The admiration is mutual, I can tell you, Liz, I love your podcast, I've listened to a couple of episodes as well. There are so many different things that you have done so many different things you've achieved. Tell us a little bit about the you know, the positives and the negatives of your journey. You know, tell us a little bit about what's got you to doing some of this amazing work Liz.

Elizabeth Milford (02:27)

You know, I think I share this with a lot of people where the good stuff sometimes comes out of the misdirection and the missteps, and I really loved my undergraduate degree in dentistry. But I also recognized pretty early on fit. While I enjoyed treating patients and seeing patients and meeting all of these people it just something about it that just didn't exactly right. And, and so that create became quite a reflective process to try and work out when you've got put so much into an undergraduate degree and, you've gotten so far to work out what the next step was.

And so, I started my journey in to management. And that just kept on snowballing. And I did my MBA and slowly the opportunities kept on coming up. And I would joke that I get bored easily. So, I just say yes to any all thing that comes along. But the reality is, is that I think sometimes when you're open to it, and when you do have diverse interests, and when we just want to, you know, just get into everything, then those opportunities do come along for you. And so that's what I've really found, yeah, that one step leads to the next and leads to the next one. And when you turn around and look back, you really see how far you've come. Yeah. And it's surprising how you get, you know, pretty high up a hill down to and it doesn't take, you think you're never going to get to the top of that hill. But when you look down you think, golly, this is this is all right.

Shivani Gupta (04:14)

It's so true, isn't it? Like I remember particularly being young, when I was younger, and I'm still impatient, but very impatient, wanting to get to that top of that hill. And I remember people saying things like Shivani, you've got to give it time. I'm like, I don't have time. I need to move through this fast. But you do realize, I think you and I are in a pretty similar age as Liz, that when you do sort of look down you go some of that did need time to actually get to the level that we've got to around that. So, you're doing work with La Trobe, like you're doing quite a few different things. Have there been any other major ups or downs around them?

Elizabeth Milford (04:49)

Do you know I think it's the sometimes I look back and it's the corridors like should I've taken that opportunity? That would have been a really interesting door and I think that one of the things I know about myself is that I have been quite cautious when it comes to some of that decision making. And it's something that, you know, this mid-career, I hope point in time, like, it's, I've got to stop that, I've got to stop being cautious. Because if I'm going to get to, you know, it's time to take some really big steps, you know, I've got all of those experiences, and they're behind me now. And that's a pretty exciting, terrifying place to be. And again, I would love to hear from you. Do you feel like that's a shared experience among a lot of us in mid-career, that that's where we really need to start taking some proper risks?

Shivani Gupta (05:46)

Absolutely, we do. And I think, you know, I actually did a post on this yesterday, and I went live on LinkedIn and Instagram yesterday speaking about exactly this thing of when we are going to retire. And this notion with where our parents kind of all retired, when there were 55, then it was 60 out 65. Now 68, then I'll be 70. Because we're not going to get our superannuation for a long time. So, I've been harping on about this topic for quite a while with other women, is to say that, you know, when we say mid-career, like, no, I can't imagine myself retiring. I'll be working in some sort of part time capacity, I hope but, you know, I'm not 50 years. So, I go man, I've probably got 40 or plus years left at work still. So, I better kind of get comfortable with what I'm going to do. Or if I really don't like it, I better start moving it. So, and I keep saying that to women, because they will go - yeah, but you know, I'm in my 40s, I'm like, you still got like 35 - 40 years of work ahead of you. To be able to do that.

Liz, tell me like all these challenges you come I know you're a parent of four children, you've got the podcast, you do work with La Trobe, like, you know, talk a little bit about some of the challenges that you face. Everybody deals with challenges, different ways. Some people say that this is my process. Some people like to take time out, like people deal with challenges that come their way, whether they're small, medium, or large, different ways. Do you have a way that you go about dealing with challenges? I'm always curious to know how people deal with challenges.

Elizabeth Milford (07:14)

Yeah, I have occurred, I have a really lovely supportive network around me. And they're the people that I lean into, when it all seems that I can't see the way forward. And, you know, just those wise heads around me, and I'm really fortunate that I have got a great network. And yeah, in those tough times, it's the phone call and just to reach out and to talk through problems. And you know, two heads really are better than one. And yeah, that's what I have relied on more than anything else. And also, just trying to remember how little, so much of this stuff really is in the whole scheme of things and how so many things really don't matter. You know, when you can remember that you've got great family around you and great people around you, then then these setbacks really can pale into insignificance.

Shivani Gupta (08:18)

That's, that's great. Do you think you've got better as you've got older asking for help and relying on your network? Or do you think that's something that was always there? And you've always relied on? Tell me a bit more about that?

Elizabeth Milford (08:28)

Shivani, I wish I had have recognized this earlier. And if I hadn't recognized my stubbornness? Yeah. No, I've definitely become a lot more open to it. And yeah, and that would be a definitely a message to my kids is, is yeah, not to not to think that you have to have all the answers or that you should be doing it all on your own and, and to recognize who your network is really early on. And how many people have your back.

Shivani Gupta (09:07)

That's so true, isn't it? What about future? You know, you're saying sort of mid-career early. So, what are your future aspiration? What are the things that you're going I wanted to do that and they might be work, they might be personal, there might be both. And I want to know more about where you are, as you said, mid-career and what some of the future things you want to do.

Elizabeth Milford (09:26)

There's a great opportunity, I think, to keep on talking in dentistry, about prevention, and keep on recognizing what opportunities we've got to make things better. And if I could illustrate what the problem that I identify is, that you know, the oral health of Australians, when you look at the numbers isn't great. 90% of Australian adults have had decay in their lifetime. And this is a preventable disease. You know, brushing teeth, managing diet. They can do a lot to stop decay. And yet, we still got high rates of disease and, you know, 30% of kiddies, it's actually in the 40s, 40% of kiddies aged five to six have had decay in their baby teeth. I mean, it's a huge number and again, you know, the sleepless nights and the pain in the kids and the dental appointments and the days of work for parents that are taking kids to health appointments, you know, it all adds up. And, and it is all preventable.

So, I think that the dental profession has done a lot. And we've come a really long way. But I think we need to recognize that there's a future challenge, and that is to keep driving this, these numbers down and to work with societies as well as individuals to be able to prevent these preventable diseases. Yeah, yeah. So that's what I'm able to tap into with my Oral-B work, because that's talking about toothbrushes and toothpaste. But when I do that, and when I talk about those things, with dental clinicians, what I'm also really saying is, hey, this really is important to your patients, and they get it, they get it. And you know how we can use technology, in toothbrushes or on apps, to again, just help patients brush better brush more thoroughly. And hopefully, the end result is better oral health. And when you've got better oral health, you have better general health. And that's a great outcome.

Shivani Gupta (11:42)

That's amazing. I love your mission about helping all Australians improve their oral health. I love that because, you know, like I come across, I've got a few friends that have dentist, I've got some family members that are dentist, and they're like, yeah, you know, work with this, but I speak to you and like there's this vibe and this energy when you're speaking about something that my experience has been from people, some dentists that I've hung around, but they're not that excited about it. Whereas you're like the so much of it's preventable.

One of the things I hadn't really thought about Liz, till you said that is the cost of the economy, right? And a pain time that parents are taking off. Often women moms are taking off to be able to get their kids there. So, there's actually quite a few flows on effects. Financially as well, when you sort of start to go that's 40% of kids in terms of that happens too, that's huge.

Elizabeth Milford (12:33)

In terms of hospitalizations. The current rate of hospitalizations that are related to dentistry for children is particularly high. It's the second highest after trauma. And these are preventable hospitalizations. And so, it's a burden on the family. It's a burden on our health system. And it's also a mental health burden for kiddies. When you know, there's numbers out of the UK looking at this, you know, percentages of kids that are too embarrassed to smile, too embarrassed to laugh because they're embarrassed about their teeth. And so, it really does impact that whole person, that whole society from all of these different angles. Yeah.

Shivani Gupta (13:17)

Yeah, it's interesting, because one of the pieces of work I love doing in my work is helping women with their confidence. And so that has a huge impact in terms of what you know what happens. And I've certainly come across women that whine smile, because they don't believe that they are good looking enough. And sometimes it's the outer stuff. And sometimes if their smile, they often won't smile that do that.

Liz, I know that you are the national face for Oral-B. And obviously there's lots of different things that you're doing as well as managing family. Like other leadership philosophies, books, quotes, principles that you live by, that are really important to you in terms of forming who you are. Tell us about that.

Elizabeth Milford (14:00)

It's so one of the things that I'm trying to work towards, is creating a more equal dental environment. And by that, I mean that I'm sure it's the same experience that you have when you look at engineering seminars like this, just a lot of male faces, and very, very male dominated, even through COVID. Now that we've got all these webinars, and now that does things popping up in my inbox every other day about another webinar, and the huge high percentage, it's a male face that I'm looking at. And so, I'm working very hard when I have a conference. I aim for equal representation by gender. I am also working really hard to look at that in terms of cultural equality, just to make sure that the range of faces that are actually doing dentistry are represented in the people who are talking about dentistry.

And it's not necessarily the easiest task. You know, it's not about asking one and asking one woman, because, as you know, women have a lot of other things on their plate, you know, maternity leave, or not necessarily the same levels of flexibility. And I hope I'm not being unfair to men or to women here, I sometimes get the sense that women pack in so much to their day, that they're doing school lunches, and then they're racing out the door and doing drop offs. And then they get to work and they work as hard as they can. And then work finishes and they're doing school pickups, and then they're getting home and all those other chores and so when I asked someone to be a guest on a podcast or to do a seminar, I think there's a limited number of people or women who have the flexibility just to say yes without seriously considering it so that's again you know, one of those times when helping women lean in and helping to build an environment with these sorts of opportunities are able to be taken not just offered is something that does you know, just require that patient sensitivity and a bit of leadership and work.

Shivani Gupta (16:11)

That's awesome. I'm so glad to hear that you're doing you know work around that equality because there are so many conferences, I just recently spoke at a conference which was about women in leadership and they didn't have one person in the organizing committee that was female or a women in leadership conference. I’m like – are you kidding me? So, I think it's great that you're on the equality, gender equality but also cultural equality around that as well. You started to speak a little bit about that Liz that you know women go from one thing you know during the lunches to the kids going back and doing family stuff and there's very little space around that and you know, although we can encourage that I noticed that you know times my wellness drops off so although I'm speaking about it.

So, what about for you, what are some of the, do you have practices rituals? Do you do certain things for your wellness? Do you do it daily, do you do it weekly, do you got an annual retreat, tell us about some of the things that you do there. And I'm always interested in what people do around their confidence, to have confidence rituals as well because I think that's really important part of your wellness. So, tell me more about that.

Elizabeth Milford (17:20)

So, for all of you listening at home Shivani and I live very close to each other and Shivani hasn't been into my home and I have absolute trust in Shivani. I know she would not have a problem at all. But I'm giving you this background because one of the things I do for my own mental health and is just let it go. And I do not have the tidiest house and I have jobs that are being backed up waiting for the next lockdown. I'm in Queensland, which we're not locked down at the moment. I'm just waiting for it because I've got cupboards that just heaving so and it's something that I really embrace. When my twins were born, I had four kids when they were born four kids under the age of six, it was just a time when I just had to really just make sure that people were happy and to do that, I had to just let things just slide and recognize that was really okay. Yeah, yeah.

So, something that genuinely that really does help keep me sane. And then for me to actually make me happy. I have always enjoyed getting out and jogging and getting out in the fresh air and just seeing the world go by and not having anything my ears just really just being part of the world and breathing and smelling and you know just hearing and just being in amongst it with my shoes on and have always enjoyed that. But lately, I've started doing weightlifting which I'm saying in a funny way because it's like new to me and is actually just really wonderful to just feel strong. And to be able to turn around and say I am strong. I just did that. And it feels good. I'm really enjoying that, yeah.

Shivani Gupta (19:33)

That's awesome. I love the fact that you said we do need to let that go and I found that I said really thrive myself and having a clean car and then kids came along and stays playing for about an hour after I clean it which is not that often anymore. And then you go - Okay, you just have to let it go and let bystanders going so it's really about not about putting that much pressure on yourself.

And Liz, this was not going to be part of my podcast interview with you. But I have to know for kids, I've got you know, 11 and 12 year olds as you know. Electric toothbrushes or plain toothbrushes, what is the answer? Give it to me. So, I can say Dr. Liz said this.

Elizabeth Milford (20:09)

I can even tell you that it is backed up by research because the paper was just published last year, studied looking at children aged between three and five. So, we're talking about preschool aged kids. And even in that age group, using an electric toothbrush meant less decay, and less gum bleeding and less plaque, which is what leads to the gum bleeding and the decay.

So, the evidence is there for our youngest kiddies, it's there for adults. And it's been there for a couple of decades now, actually, for adults, which is really quite exciting. And, and so we don't have the research fair and 11 or 12 year old, but I think we can join the dots and say if it's good for them, and it's good for them. And yeah, it really does set kids up for life. We've got a piece of research that just came out before the pandemic, what does a mouth look like 11 years later, if someone's using an electric toothbrush vs. a manual toothbrush. And yeah, there's less gum disease. There was less decay, and 20% less tooth loss over an 11-year period for otherwise healthy people. With a little bit of disease. Yeah, 11 years later, amazing, huh.

Shivani Gupta (21:27)

Okay, I'm gonna go out and buy some Oral-B electric toothbrushes for our kids, because we've done them and then came off them because somebody told me that wasn't great because the gums were bleeding a little bit. So that's going to be my action that I take out of this podcast.

Now, Liz for people that are listening to you, they want to hear more about you. They want to listen to your podcast, how do they come in contact with you tell us where to find you.

Elizabeth Milford (21:49)

Thank you. So, the podcast is called The Oral-B ToothCast (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-oral-b-toothcast/id1529288678). And it does have it's really nice and short. So, it's all very bite sized, little bits of information about toothbrushes a little bit about toothpaste, and also some conversations again, with leaders who are in the dental world but who are really passionate about prevention as well. Really just sharing their stories and there's some leadership stories in there too. Yeah so, if you love that.

Shivani Gupta (22:19)

I love the name of that podcast, TOOTHCast. I love it. I've listened to a couple of episodes very, very informative. Liz been such a pleasure to see you today and I'm sure I'm going to be running into you, in our suburb very shortly. I just so appreciate you bringing your wisdom and the work that you do and being so vulnerable and open about all the things that you let go and I love your lockdown, Liz. Yeah, I'll just leave that to the next lockdown Liz. Some people are going to get me out of lockdown. You're like - I have a list and that's what we'll be addressing in the next lockdown. So hopefully we'll stay out of lockdown but we'll wait and see thank you so much for being on here today.

Elizabeth Milford (22:59)

And for everyone who's in lockdown at the moment you're doing a great job keep it going. You know, that's it’s so important what everyone's doing around you.

Shivani Gupta (23:09)

Yeah, it's been very challenging for people that are you know, in week 12 of it and straight. So, absolutely all our love and hearts go out to you. Liz, thank you for being on today. Awesome, I really appreciate it.

Elizabeth Milford (23:20)

Thank you, Shivani. I really appreciate it. Bye now.

Shivani Gupta (23:31)

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.