Meet Kris A Healthcare Hygienist with HeartJan 27, 2023
Meet Kris! She is a Healthcare Hygienist, speaker, educator and key opinion leader in our field. She is a proud founding member of National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH) and was the Education Director who led the curriculum development of our Oral Systemic Educator Certificate Program (OSECP), a sampling of multiple areas of medicine hygienists can contribute to. She also instructed the oncology module in that program and is well-loved by our community here at The Network.
Kris’s passion for helping those going through cancer therapy began when she lost her best friend of 35 years to metastatic breast cancer. She wished she could have done more to alleviate her friend's oral pain and complications. Watching her friend, and other family members, suffer plus going through her own diagnosis, she was motivated to research and find her own answers to alleviate oral side effects. Speaking and writing about her findings was a natural next step. She wanted her fellow registered dental hygienists to feel better prepared to treat and prevent them too.
She has now ‘mostly’ retired, but is still the "point of contact" for many clinics and treatment centers, encouraging patients to advocate for themselves, while reminding them that they do NOT have to lose their smile to cancer. She still sees a need for better integration with oncology centers and oral health providers and protocols and feels dental hygienists have so much to share; yet getting the medical world to recognize our education, passion and experience has been slower than it needs to be..
In her latest article for Conquer Magazine, Kris reminds us that painful, ulcerative lesions in the mouth form in about 40% of patients receiving chemotherapy.1
With 1.9 million new cases of cancer expected in 2023 (cancer.org) one would think that the misery of oral complications would be a regular part of prevention and treatment protocols at every cancer treatment facility. Unfortunately Kris said oncology patients are not typically informed of their options for oral care:
Many medical and dental professionals believe that oral mucositis is an unavoidable side effect of cancer treatment and are unaware of the various solutions available that can offer relief. Many doctors and nurses still recommend drinking more water and sucking on sour candies. Potts in Conquer Magazine1
That led our board of directors at NNHH to prioritize oncology as our next certificate program. We knew, from conversations we had with Kris and other cancer care thought leaders, that the solution is to have a dedicated, oral health provider on site to educate and manage oral health throughout each patient's cancer journey. Oral health in oncology models like the programs Katharine Martinez at Phoenix Children's Hospital 3 and Jenell Robins at Texas Children's Hospital 2 are involved in are so successful and appreciated by patients, caretakers, and providers alike, that we knew "proof of concept" was strong. (Learn more about our Oncology Certificate Program for Registered Dental Hygienists HERE)
If you are an RDH considering becoming a member of National Network of Healthcare Hygienists, Kris says, “Get out of your comfort zone and recognize the value of what you can offer to others by sharing."
Connect with Kris at http://krispottsrdh.com/ or via email [email protected]
- Potts, Kris. “Simple Strategies for Relieving Oral Pain Caused by Cancer Treatment - Conquer: The Patient Voice.” CONQUER, 17 Aug. 2022, https://conquer-magazine.com/issues/2022/vol-8-no-4-august-2022/1896-simple-strategies-for-relieving-oral-pain-caused-by-cancer-treatment
- Machado, Kristen. “Supporting the Oral Health of Kids with Cancer.” Dimensions' of Dental Hygiene Students, Sunstar, 17 Nov. 2022, https://students.dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/supporting-oral-health-kids-cancer/
- Kulsrud, Zachary. “The Future of Oral-Systemic Health: Dental Hygienist Breaks New Ground ...” DentistryIQ, 16 Nov. 2020, https://www.dentistryiq.com/dentistry/oral-systemic-health/article/14187213/dental-hygienist-breaks-new-ground-in-work-treating-pediatric-cancer-patients