After reading the RDH article on holistic dentistry (November 2003), I felt compelled to seek a speaker I had heard about six years ago at a periodontal seminar presented by Dr. Zunka at the Holistic Dental Association.
At the time, I was in the transition of moving to another state, so I wasn't able to put any of the information into use. When I got settled and relicensed, I was unable to find anyone in the new area who practiced using these principles.
Prior to hearing Dr. Zunka speak, I had the incredible clinical experience of having two of my perio patients, a retired married couple with similar oral conditions, spend a year in China teaching English as a second language.
They had both recently undergone conservative perio treatment without achieving optimum response. Based on popular trends in dentistry, I had grave concerns for their oral condition if they were without care for a year. Much to my surprise, they returned a year later with the healthiest mouths in the practice. Treating the wife first, I inquired about her home care routine, thinking surely that was the answer to her miraculous recovery. She confirmed that home care had been diligent during the past year. My assumption was that we would have seen this remarkable improvement earlier if she had been equally diligent prior to leaving.
Her husband was treated next, showing the same remarkably healthy tissues; however, he confessed that his home care routine did not change, and what I say in the office has no bearing on what he does at home. Obviously home care wasn't the driving force behind the improvement and I was grateful my previous assumption hadn't been verbalized.
What was wrong with this picture? The best dental care we could provide didn't yield the kind of results achieved by withholding all dental care and radically changing their diet for a year. Incidentally, the couple felt so great as a result of their Oriental diet that they vowed to adhere to it even though they were back in the United States. Over the next five years, they gradually slipped back into an American diet and lifestyle, and their mouths looked the same when I left the practice as when I had first seen them prior to the China experience.
The doctor and I were searching for answers in vain until I heard Dr. Zunka speak. Dr. Zunka has been practicing holistic periodontal thereapy for 20-plus years, obtaining wonderful results. His methods employ utilizing blood chemistries to evaluate calcium metabolism and healing capacity, dietary counseling, customizing irrigation solutions to the bacterial pathogens, and utilizing nutritional supplements and herbal complexes in addition to traditional hygiene methods.
At the seminar, I spoke with other dental hygienists who were using these methods. They were very enthused with both their careers and the results they achieved. It was a win-win situation because patients improved their health, often without surgery, and the hygienists were very successful with their results.
When I interviewed Dr. Zunka, I learned that his presentation yielded such a request for more precise information, and that he presented a follow-up seminar, which he had videotaped to be used as a correspondence course. While happy to disseminate the information, his main focus is caring for his patients. His course is still sold through his dental office.
I think it's important for hygienists to be aware that all holistic dentistry isn't about making the patient feel good with aroma therapy, massages, etc., while replacing amalgams with composites.
Cindy Powell, RDH
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We met Shannon M. Nanne, RDH, when she worked as an exhibitor at the RDH Under One Roof conference last April in Costa Mesa, Calif. A career-long interest in xerostomia led to a part-time position with Laclede, the makers of Biotene, and she helped man the company's booth.
"During hygiene school, I chose radiation-induced xerostomia as my table clinic presentation," Shannon says. "Ironically, 10 years after graduation, I lecture nationally to the dental and medical fields on helping their patients cope with xerostomia U because we can make a difference."
Shannon resides in Sagamore Hills, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland. She began her career by working as a dental assistant during the summer while in high school. "I worked with a very inspirational dental team that taught me the mesials and distals of dentistry," she says. She heeded the advice of her mentor, a dental hygienist, and enrolled in the dental hygiene program at the University of Pittsburgh.
"In my 10 years as a hygienist, I have always continued to practice no matter how busy I got. For almost five years, I have worked consistently two days a week for an outstanding dentist. Not only is his dentistry phenomenal, I'm proud to call him my friend."
In October 2003, Shannon collaborated with Lexi-Comp, publishers of the Drug Information Handbooks, to write an educational book titled, "A Patient's Guide to Periodontal Disease." "I personally think the best, most innovative idea I had in writing this was taking the radiographs with a perio probe inserted into the pocket. This actually shows the extent of the patient's periodontal disease, and why we have to probe them with our mean poker."
As for her personal time, Shannon says, "Bargain shopping would have to top the list, because there is no bigger high than knowing, 'I got it on sale!' Weekend getaways are a second favorite, as long as there are no cell phones and no laundry. However, add a poker tournament to the mix, and life is good.
"I am most thankful for the support and love from my family and friends. They are definitely my biggest fans. I am also lucky to have married my best friend, Gerry, who has supported me in every endeavor I jump into."