I believe meditation is one of the best habits because it’s impossible to focus effectively if we cannot quiet the mind, even for just a few minutes. Yoga is also a great way to improve focus.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Gerry Curatola, DDS.
Dr. Gerry Curatola is an acclaimed oral health expert, wellness pioneer and renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 35 years of clinical practice experience. Dr. Curatola has personally treated some of the world’s most well known smiles and has been featured on programs including Dr. Oz, the Martha Stewart Show, NBC’s Your Total Health, and Fox News Channel. He is also the founder of Rejuvenation Health & Rejuvenation Dentistry with headquarters in New York City & East Hampton, NY.
Dr. Curatola is the author behind the “Mouth-Body Connection” which outlines the correlation between the health of your mouth and your body, a groundbreaking discovery that showcases how healing the body helps heal the mouth, and vice versa.
In addition to running his successful practices, he serves as an adjunct clinical associate professor in NYU’s Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care where there is a wing in his name for clinical research.
Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Woodmere on Long Island, New York with my parents and two siblings — a brother, Dominick, and sister, LuAnne.
From the age of 6 I knew I wanted to become a dentist, which even I find funny as I hated going to the dentist as a child! So, looking back I really think this was a “calling.” I was determined to become the best dentist in the world and pay my parent’s back for all those dental bills!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
It might seem strange but I remember exactly when and who! My family had just moved into a new home shortly before my 6th birthday. I remember going to bed and thinking about what I should be when I grew up. So, I said a short prayer and from within I heard a voice say, “I want you to work for me.”
Coming from an Italian Catholic family, I assumed that meant becoming a priest which I knew I didn’t want to do. I told my mother this story and she wisely said, “You can work for God in everything you do.” That couldn’t be more true. It’s all about love, and giving more than receiving. I went to bed with her words in mind, and woke up the next morning knowing that I would someday become a dentist…and here I am.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I was extremely fortunate to have had such supportive parents. They made my two siblings and me believe that we could do anything we put our minds and hearts to. Their top priority was ensuring that we were all able to pursue the very best education, and they sacrificed many personal indulgences to ensure this.
My dad was an entrepreneur in the shipping business and worked harder than anyone I knew, or know today. He instilled the importance of hard work and tenacity — values that are still so dear to me today. My mother was a gifted, eloquent writer, especially when she needed to present her opinion or defend her position. She could have been a lawyer and actually got to see my daughter and her oldest granddaughter, Gia, graduate law school! My mother was the one who always encouraged me to always use my voice.
Due to my parents commitment to education, my siblings and I all became doctors in medicine and dentistry. The credit for our success is traced back to the tremendous support and encouragement we always received from them.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One of my earliest jobs immediately after completing my dental training, was at an incredibly busy “dental-insurance driven” dental practice in downtown Manhattan. Patients were seated in seven treatment rooms and I would go “room to room” performing dentistry and delivering dental appliances. I felt like a hamster on a wheel!
One day, I was polishing a denture to deliver to a patient and walked in the wrong room. I didn’t realize the mistake I had made until I asked the patient to open his mouth and he frantically said “what’s that?!” I was inches away from putting a full set of false teeth in the mouth of a patient who had all his own! The both of us were roaring in laughter.
While funny in the moment, it made me realize that I couldn’t continue practicing at that breakneck speed. Shortly thereafter, I opened a small private practice where I could deliver the best dental care in a highly personalized environment.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Read the poem “Don’t Quit” by John Greenleaf Whittier — it has inspired me for 50 years. I first read as a young teenager and I still think about its words daily. The whole poem is inspirational but here is the first stanza:
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, has had the greatest impact on me. It taught me that we have in our possession the ability to harness the abundance of the universe by changing our mindset, intention and attention. It’s about moving from fear to faith and the amazing power this has to manifest our heart’s desires.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
It’s a verse I’ve heard my whole life, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” It is the Universal Law of Reciprocity. If you “sow generously” you “reap generously” and it works the other way around too. If you’re truly a giver without expectations, it’s amazing what you can manifest.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I have two missions which I have been passionately working on. I call them “missions” rather than “projects” because they’re long-term and large scale.
The first is my desire to bring down the wall between the practice of medicine and dentistry. Recently, I opened my first integrative health care center in East Hampton, NY called Rejuvenation Health. It is the first center to bring biologically-oriented dentistry, medicine and wellness under one roof to provide more effective and efficient total body care to patients.
The second mission is to change the products people use to brush their teeth. Oral care has a history littered with bizarre products that are not only ineffectual, but harmful as well. I’ve spent almost twenty years developing a patented nutritional prebiotic toothpaste formulation, Revitin, that helps rebalance the essential natural ecology of the mouth, known as the oral microbiome. It couldn’t be a more timely introduction in this age of Covid-19 as a healthy mouth is essential to a healthy immune system!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Good habits create a discipline that enables you to be programmed for success in whatever you do. For example, there are so many distractions these days, and tremendous loss of efficient work time due to social media and smartphones. Personally, I’ve made it a habit to keep my phone in my office during the day when I’m treating patients. That took discipline! I once accidentally took my phone into a treatment room and the temptation to look and lose focus was terrible!
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Discipline and focus are two key habits for me. In order to achieve success it’s important to have a daily regime that combines what I like to call the four essential cornerstones. The habits of keeping a daily routine, prioritizing my nutrition, exercising daily and managing the stress in my life have without a doubt helped me to stay focused and disciplined and ultimately succeed.
I also credit my disciplinary habits to my mother, who forbade me to go outside and play after school until my homework was finished. Her rule was homework first, playtime second. Looking back, I remember I was always easily distracted and my mind would wander and daydream. I also was highly creative so, while I resented it at the time, I realize now that my mother’s regimine about these habits at an early age were invaluable to creating the long-term discipline I needed to excel in high school, college, dental school and postdoctoral studies.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
They say that it takes at least 21 days to develop and keep a good habit. In turn, that means it also takes 21 days to stop a bad habit. I always prepare myself for a three week commitment to change. Whether it be adopting a new positive habit or trying to rid yourself of a negative one, a positive mindset is key.
Recently, I decided to pick up my meditation practice again. I had received an email from Deepak Chopra about a daily meditation app he was promoting with Oprah Winfrey. There were various programs but of course I enrolled in the 21 day program. Sure enough, after that period passed, I was meditating daily again!
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
I’ve created a dedicated program to restore balance and reduce health-destroying inflammation through diet, supplements, exercise, and stress reduction — which ultimately help to achieve optimal wellness, performance and focus. It’s important to implement a regime that includes the following:
Wellness — nutrition is key
The foods you consume can literally be compared to the “fuel in the tank of your car.” Bad fuel creates poor performance, and you become unwell with your body headed to the “shop” (aka hospital). Covid-19 particularly uncovered a lot of unwell people with comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes. Some of them were diagnosed, but many people are still walking around undiagnosed with serious, compromised health conditions. There are many people trying to eat well but healthy nutrients cannot be absorbed if your body is compromised.
Additionally, combined with good nutrition, detoxing is an important habit. I enjoy doing regular detoxes as it’s all about cleaning out the “junk in the trunk.”
Performance — exercise regularly
Daily exercise is extremely important as it improves the body’s immune system confidence and circulatory function. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym — in fact, over exercise can also harm the overall performance of the body. I like to do 15–30 minutes of healthy exercise every morning to kick start my day and get my energy flowing!
After work, I do a few yoga poses. Studies suggest that yoga can slow the harmful physical effects of stress and inflammation. For my daily exercise, I like to do HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercises and end the day with yoga poses!
Focus — meditate to quiet the mind
I believe meditation is one of the best habits because it’s impossible to focus effectively if we cannot quiet the mind, even for just a few minutes. Yoga is also a great way to improve focus!
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
My book, “The Mouth-Body Connection,” includes a 28-day program that speaks about implementing all of the above habits in order to prevent disease throughout the body. Funnily enough, the program was originally going to be 21 days, but at the last minute I decided to add on the extra week to make sure the habits stuck!
My goal for the book was to put forward simple, easily implemented practices that allowed readers to make small changes in diet, exercise, stress reduction and focus. In making these changes small, the habits become self-motivating, which is essential in developing good habits. Too many times people set the bar so high that they fall off the ladder and are afraid to climb up again.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
My top three habits are: wake up early, finish what you start, and don’t quit. A few years ago I listened to a commencement speech by Admiral William McCraven, a former Navy SEAL, illustrating the power of discipline and focus in whatever you do, whether at work or sport, and it remains one of the most inspiring motivational speeches I have ever heard. The most surprising thing about Admiral McCraven’s words were they confirmed the same three habits I live by which were taught to me by my dad, a WWII war veteran.
The first, wake up early — it’s not always easy after a long night. He used to say, “you commit the crime, you do the time.” If I was out partying late while home from college, in the morning he would blast opera throughout the house to get me out of bed. He would also say the one thing you can never recover is lost time, so wake up early and never waste a good day!
The second, finish what you start — this habit creates order in lieu of chaos. I’ve always been creative and as a result I’d begin many projects that would ultimately get tossed into my little graveyard of unfinished stuff. Not only were these unfinished ventures clutter to my brain, but there’s also a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completion. My wife, Georgia, has been my biggest supporter in this regard. She is one of the most disciplined and organized people I know.
Finally, never quit when you have a vision. I have seen so many people quit prematurely when success was right around the corner. That is a discipline in itself! I also find it very interesting that success in work takes the same discipline and focus as success in any sport.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
I think that it’s all about a routine. Start slow and build momentum. After the first week, it gets easier. I always think that building good habits, and breaking bad ones, is like turning around a battleship. It takes time but “steady she goes” and before you know it, you’re in a new direction and charting a new course toward success.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
The top three habits for optimal focus for me are restful sleep, good nutrition and regular meditation.
There are so many people who are sleep deprived. This could be a physical disability from conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea and hormonal imbalances in the body, or it could be psycho-emotional in origin. Personally, I’m also recognizing the environmental impact from electronic disturbances in the bedroom, and I’ve begun making our bedroom a sanctuary without all of the environmental static to our brains that can contribute to restless sleep.
Nearly a billion people have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on this planet and almost 75% are unaware of this, costing them much needed sleep and their general health suffers too. In my Rejuvenation Dentistry offices, we have an amazing disposable home sleep study that can accurately detect this problem. For treatment, we use The Vivos System and DNA Appliance to permanently correct the most common root cause of this problem. These create more space for the tongue to move forward, as often it is cramped by narrow dental arches, and the tongue forced too far back in the oral cavity compromising your ability to breathe, especially during sleep.
Nutrition is equally important for focus. A vibrant, healthy diet can regulate hormones especially the production of human growth hormone (HGH). I personally enjoy intermittent fasting with healthy fats, moderate protein and low carbs. This has been extensively studied and suggested for improving energy levels and focus and is something I learned from my close friend and health coach, Dr. Dan Pompa. Conversely, high carb consumption can result in wide fluctuations in blood sugar. The “sugar blues,” caused as a result of this, can seriously affect optimal focus and performance.
Finally, for me, meditation is a full mind-body recharge. I compare it to plugging your electric car that has been on the road all day back into its charging port. We are all ‘energy beings’ and brain overload can be extremely debilitating, especially for focus. Give yourself 15 minutes per day to quiet and recharge your brain. Don’t think, don’t speak….just listen!
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Routine, routine, routine! Wake up early and brush your teeth. Try Revitin, the prebiotic nutritional toothpaste I developed to rebalance your oral microbiome. Then, meditate for 15 minutes, followed by some healthy exercise with a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program. I also have some great exercise suggestions using resistance bands in my book. Just 15–30 minutes is great for getting your body to release some rejuvenating human growth hormone (HGH).
I also recommend drinking coffee with coconut or MCT oil for healthy fats. I recently became addicted to my good friend, Dr. Daryl Gioffre’s “Acid-Kicking Coffee Alkalizer ‘’ which is a great coffee additive with acid-fighting minerals, coconut oil, MCT oil, Himalayan pink salt, and enzymes that tastes amazing in the coffee.
Try to allow a 14–16 hour window from the night before eating again to allow a good intermittent fasting period which helps your body regenerate. Lunch can be your choice and try not to eat dinner after 6–7 pm. After dinner, try to decompress, read a book, share your day’s experiences and electronically detox at least one hour before getting ready for bed. Now get your sleep!
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
First and foremost, do what you love. It’s the old expression, do you live to work, or work to live? If you live to work, you have to have a passion for what you do. When you work to live, it’s a “job” and it can be imprisoning physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When you explore your true calling you’ll experience more states of “Flow.”
I was truly blessed to discover my calling at such a young age. Dentistry came somewhat easy as I was prepared with, what I call, the three H’s: a good Head (mind), good Hands (dexterity) and a good Heart (love for my patients and my profession). I try to inspire young dentists and dental students in the same way.
Don’t be mistaken, dentistry is a very difficult and stressful profession. For this reason, anyone entering this profession genuinely needs to feel a passion and love for the practice, which brings many skill sets together with medicine, art and even engineering.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d improve access to biologically-minded (holistic) dentistry and educate the masses on the revolutionary new product science behind Revitin toothpaste, to improve oral and systemic health for billions of people around the world.
In a 2006 study on 145,000 patients at Columbia University’s Medical College and repeated in Japan, it was found that improving oral health resulted in an average of 21% decrease in healthcare costs for patients with the most expensive diseases: diabetes, heath disease, and cerebrovascular diseases. This translated into a savings of nearly 700,000,000 dollars annually in healthcare costs which could go a long way to making healthcare as a whole more affordable around the world!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I’d love to sit down with Sir Richard Branson. I have always admired his entrepreneurship, creativity, vision, tenacity and great sense of humor. He has made noteworthy accomplishments in retail, music and transport (on land, sea, air and now space). I have also been deeply inspired by his adventurous spirit and his humanitarian work.
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