Interview with Tonja Willey RDH, MS–Dental Hygiene Instructor

Dr McGlennen: Tell me how your students use OralDNA® salivary diagnostics.

Tonja Willey RDH, MS: Our students’ select one patient with moderate to severe periodontitis for a special program called Senior Capstone project; Perio Project. The goal of this project is to have the student follow one patient from the New Patient Consultation through all the steps of therapy in hopes of improving health or finding a more stable condition. The program fee ($175) includes several types of tests including the salivary diagnostic testing. The students go through the process of care (assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation, documentation) with the patient. During the assessment phase the student collects the OralDNA® sample. The students receive the results and discuss with the patient on what is the best possible treatment. Ultimately, the senior students present their Capstone Project to the class and others interested in their progress such as our clinic dentists, the other allied health faculty in the collage, and our junior students.

Dr McGlennen: What are the biggest benefits to having students use salivary diagnostics?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS: One of the biggest benefits to having our students use salivary diagnostics is that it connects the dots for them from what they learned in their periodontology classes and what they have seen in clinic. Another benefit, is that the report comes with treatment recommendations that they can use to consult with our dentist and instructors for clarification and detailed instruction.  Additionally, the students see the benefits of ongoing testing even after graduating.

Dr McGlennen: What is your students’ favorite part of the MyPerioPath® results? Why?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS:  Our students are saying great things about salivary diagnostics! For example, “Using MyPerioPath® is a great educational tool for both myself and my patient. It allows us both the opportunity to put a number to the amount, and type of bacteria present in the mouth. It also helps the clinician individualize treatment even more based on the bacterial involvement the patient is experiencing.” Kirsten, senior student

“I think that knowing what kind of bacteria and how much of it that the patient has in their mouth is amazing to see. It gives hygienists a chance to individualize the patient’s treatment plan to minimize their bacteria count.” Courtney, senior student

“It was neat to see how the levels of bacteria lined up with what we learned about perio in school; we learned that P gingivalis was more common in chronic perio, and A. a. more common in aggressive–and I got to see that in my patient’s results! I had diagnosed her as having chronic perio, and sure enough, she had high numbers of P. g. I haven’t been able to show my patient the results, and I know we don’t do a post-therapy saliva test, but I would imagine that could be a good motivational tool to use with patients.” Rachel, senior student

Personally, I have seen our students dive into the report and show their client the report. This is very educational for the patient. It greatly helps with patient compliance when they can see in color the bacteria they are fighting against.

Dr McGlennen: How do your students respond to this technology? What is their #1 question?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS:  “I have no questions, but it seemed really great on the webinar and I am very excited to use it!” Kirsten, senior student.

Dr McGlennen: How do the patients respond to this technology? What is their #1 question?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS:  The patients seem very interested in the results and want to know how they can change their oral hygiene to lower the bacterial count. They also want to know which bacteria are normal and which are affecting their mouth and overall health.

Dr McGlennen: If a health care professional were considering becoming an OralDNA® provider, what advice would you share to them?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS: The attitude of the provider makes a huge impact on the how the patient accepts any type of treatment. For a small fee, the OralDNA® testing is a tool that helps the clinician to decide what type of treatment will respond best to the specific bacteria. Not all bacteria respond well to Non-Surgical Periodontal Therapy (NSPT). Sometimes antibiotics are the best choice for treatment. This is all part of the package deal that OralDNA® provides with their reports.

Dr McGlennen: Where do you see the future of salivary diagnostics? What would be the impact on students?

Tonja Willey RDH, MS: I see the salivary diagnostics increasing in popularity. The word is getting out about the positive patient responses. I would think that many patients will be seeking out health care professionals who provide this service. I see all dental offices offering this service in the future.

For students, the practical application of performing the service and able to explain the results to their patients will make them more comfortable. This will be the norm for the profession, just like screening for blood pressure is done today.

**To learn more about becoming an OralDNA Provider: Text “OralDNA” to 43766**

Tonja Willey RDH, MS

Tonja Willey RDH, MS

Tonja grew up in Portland, OR and graduated from Mt Hood Community College with an A.S.degree in Dental Hygiene. She provided patient care in a general dental office setting first in Florida, then in the Portland metro area for 27 years. She also provided local anesthesia in an endodontist’s office.In addition, she has taught part-time at Mt Hood Community College in their dental hygiene program. Tonja is a graduate of Oregon Tech’s online degree completion program for dental hygienists earning their bachelor’s degree. Then, she went on to receive her M.S. in Education at Portland State. Enthusiastically, she passes on her love of the dental hygiene profession with her students at Oregon Tech in the Salem, OR area. She has been on the faculty team as an assistant professor for two years.

When not teaching, she loves traveling to see her family, race-walking, cooking and quilting.
Tonja Willey RDH, MS

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