Educated in Dental Hygiene, Practicing Dental Medicine

Think about a smile, what does it mean to you? As a dental professional it likely means more than friendliness and beauty. Does the word medicine come to mind? I have been practicing dental hygiene for five short years and have begun to understand the degree that dental and medical are interchangeable. Dental medicine is a key term used when you understand the interchangeability. I believe in dental medicine.

As a clinician, most of us have heard our patients say, “There is just a little bleeding” and “I only go to the dentist if something hurts.” In school we are taught risk factors for periodontal disease such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, etc.; however, it took my clinical experience to fully understand how prevalent these diseases are and the implications they have on our population. By practicing dental medicine, I have realized the magnitude of what I do daily and how it can improve and possibly save lives.

OralDNA® Labs’ testing was introduced to me when I began working at my current practice, Coastal Cosmetic Family Dentistry. I was appointed to oversee the testing. This introduction and appointment excited my interest in research. What I didn’t realize was how this would impact my level of clinical care.

Initially, I struggled with recommending testing. I had to overcome my perception of the financial obstacle, my academic foundations and actually testing myself has allowed my patient care to exceed my expectations and yearn for what is next.

As a fact finder, I was interested to find out my levels of bacteria and risk factors Testing myself sparked research into my own family medical history. Recommending OralDNA® Labs’ testing became easier because it was more personal to me. The support of the OralDNA® team was also crucial to this realization.

I like to think of my patient population as family and this is what I explain to my patients when they are concerned about cost or why I am recommending this test for them. I have been using salivary diagnostics over the past few years and have come across several interesting cases. Cases where patients have been diagnosed with cancers and then later tested with salivary diagnostics. Their results were eye-opening, showing the possible connection of one or more of their bacteria present, to their specific type of cancer. Another patient I tested had bacteria levels that correlated with risk of developing diabetes and eventually visited their physician to be diagnosed with diabetes. When you start to experience serious medical conditions through salivary diagnostics, you start to understand the implications of dental medicine.

Salivary diagnostics helps us identify and refer to specific periodontal bacteria when talking with our patients. We can then explain the risk correlation of bacteria present in other parts of the body, helping us connect the dental-medical dots. My goal as a clinician is to keep my patients smiling with total body health. With salivary diagnostics, I have been able to grow as a clinician and consider myself a dental medicine advocate.

Stevey Cline RDH
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