Braggin’ Rights From A to Z

Barbara Tritz
· December 15, 2014 ·

4 minutes

Dentist Appreciation Tumbler. Dentists4kids, pediatric dentist locator @ #Dentists4Kids #pediatric_dentist
I love being a dental hygienist!

Dental Hygienists are not usually known as super heroes (although conquering gum disease and tooth decay are life saving events).  This week I had two noteworthy patients I want to share with you.   Maybe you’ll agree I get to wear my Wonder Woman cape and tiara. 😉

The Tale of Mrs. A 
My week started on Tuesday with Mrs. A.  She drives over an hour and a ferry ride to be a patient in our office.  That’s commitment!   About two years ago Mrs. A and I were working on her gums to get them to stop bleeding and be healthy.  Gum therapy and home-care instructions usually do the trick to start the healing process.  Mrs. A was working hard on her home-care but her gums still bled, a lot.  Generally after gum therapy I ask patients to return for a three week follow up to evaluate success and fine tune their processes.  At that time I also do a bacterial assessment using my chairside phase contrast microscope to see what pathogens are still living in the gum pockets.  (See my blog post: It’s a Small, Small, Extra Small World for an example of what goes on under your gums)  Usually we’ll see a big change in the microflora.  This is a short appointment -15 minutes at most.  So, to ask Mrs. A to drive all that way for such a short appointment almost seemed unnecessary.  But she was willing to drive down and she was eager to see improvement.  Thankfully she did make that appointment.  I looked over her gums and took a plaque sample. Her gums were not better at all.  They bled profusely, and then the microscope slide bacteria did not fit with what I saw clinically.  There was not much aggressive bacteria on the slide.  Between her efforts, her bacteria and the bleeding I knew something was out of whack but I just didn’t know what it was.  I suggested she see her physician and have a checkup.  Again, thankfully she did just that!  She found out she had leukemia.  Needless to say, her MD was surprised to hear that her dental hygienist sent her in because something was not right orally.  Luckily, we caught things in time, and they immediately started cancer therapy.  On Tuesday, this week, Mrs. A finally got clearance from her doctor to have a dental recare appointment and got a BIG hug from me!  She looked great, and her gums were much more in line with how they should have been.  Her doctor said they caught the leukemia very early thanks to Mrs. A’s follow through.  Being part of her success story made my day!

Now the Tale of Ms. Z 
My last patient of the week was Ms. Z.  I hadn’t seen her for a long time so it was like seeing an old friend.  We had lots of catching up to do.  As I’m working in her mouth I notice possible signs that might indicate she has sleep apnea.  When I haven’t seen someone for a long time and there’s lots going on in their mouth, I don’t want to overwhelm them with problems.  I often pick and choose the most important things, knowing I’ll eventually address the entire list.  (And, sometimes folks get a little testy when I mention sleep apnea.  So I don’t do it willy-nilly.)  Ms. Z was totally caught off guard when I asked how she slept.  Hygienists don’t usually ask that question.  Thankfully I do, though.  Ms. Z remarked that she slept awfully. That she woke up 10 times a night, and she was always tired.  She wanted to know what signs I saw that would indicate sleep apnea so I sat her upright and showed her-  Heavy wear on the biting edges of her front teeth, and a Friedman score of 4.  We talked about how tired she has been for the last 20 years.  She revealed that she also has severe acid reflux both day and night, another sign of sleep disordered breathing.  She’d been to numerous physicians and no one had ever mentioned sleep apnea!  Instead they told her she was tired because she had young children, and was a busy mom.  They prescribed prilesec and sent her on her way.  Now the acid reflux may be causing her voice to be hoarse and gravelly.  Finally she might have an answer.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to attack the day and not feeling like you always need a nap!  I look forward to sharing Ms. Z’s followup and success story with you as it happens!  Learn more about sleep disordered breathing and clinical signs in my blog post: The Silent Killer.  For Ms. Z this could well be the answer to her many questions and get her started on the road to health!


The moral of my stories:

Of all the material presents we can purchase for ourselves and others, the very best gift you can give this holiday season and coming new year is the gift of health.  Listen to your body, know when things are not right, and keep looking until you find answers for yourself and those you love.  Take charge and work on being the best healthy person you can be.  Choose the path of optimal health.


I’m taking off my Wonder Woman cape (although I love the tiara) and I’m heading to Los Angeles today for a week-long continuing education course on breathing.  While it’s not my usual CE focus of tooth decay and gum disease, I’m really excited to learn something in a totally new area for me.  I suspect that this will tie into Sleep Disordered Breathing as well as Long Face Syndrome/mouth breathing so I look forward to sharing all  I learn in the coming year.   I’m taking the holidays off so look for new posts in the New Year.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and the Very Best of wishes for the coming New Year.

“I am not a product of my circumstances.  I am a product of my decisions.”  Stephen Covey

Keep Smiling!

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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