MONROE — Kyle Isaacs is a dental dynamo. She’s an expanded-practice dental hygienist, which under Oregon law, allows her to travel to cater her patients, clean their teeth and perform other procedures away from a dental office, without direct supervision of a dentist. As a hygienist, Isaacs can provide several dental treatments, but other procedures, such as drillings and fillings can only be performed by a dentist.
Expanded practice dental hygienists refer patients to see a dentist annually for an exam or for whenever an emergency occurs, requiring an expert’s opinion.
It is unfortunate that in Pakistan qualified dental hygienists are struggling to find jobs in both private and public sector.
Kyle Isaacs visits nursing homes, mental health facilities, schools and private residences of homebound people, to bring needed dental hygiene to those who have difficulty in visiting a dentist’s office. She is referred to patients through skilled nursing facilities, a consortium of dental clinics that provide dental care to patients with low income. Isaacs also provides her dental care services in Linn and Benton counties, alongside her mobile dental hygienist business, by the name of Miles 2 Smiles, where she takes a suitcase-sized compressor, dental tools and other necessary supplies to her appointments.
In addition, the 57-year-old, is a clinical representative for a dental hygiene products company and a professional educator for Waterpik oral health products. She speaks at various dental health educational programs and teaches continuing dental education courses too. Isaacs also co-wrote a pilot project with a Benton county official, to provide preventative dental hygiene services in 14 long- term care facilities, as well as educating the facilities’ staffs on the importance of oral health for residents.
“I know it’s a lot of things to juggle, but I love it,” Isaacs said. “I really want to do whatever I can so people understand the need for oral health.”
Today, Oregon has 4,312 licensed dental hygienists, according to the state Board of Dentistry. Of those, 719 hygienists with additional training have expanded-practice permits, similar to that of Isaacs. However, the Board of Dentistry doesn’t track how many hygienists use their expanded permit to work outside the dental offices. Isaacs reported that, nationwide, 38 states have allowed hygienists to perform dental hygiene services outside a dental office. However, most states require hygienists to receive permission from a dentist first. Oregon is one of a few states where permission is not necessary.
Isaacs, on various notes said that, she has developed an affinity for taking care of the dental needs of elderly people, including those with dementia. “When people go to a nursing home, they just generally have lost the ability to care for themselves. They are going to need a lot more help.” She further added that, elderly patients should be checked for signs of oral cancer thoroughly and proper instructions should be given to the denture wearers. Poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease can lead to health problems, including pneumonia, a leading cause of death among the elderly. “If your oral health is not good, you will have a lot of bacteria in your mouth,” she said. “Bacteria is breathed into people’s lungs, and it’s the main reason why people get sick and go to the hospital and die.”
A social services coordinator, Jesse Rapp, praised Kyle Isaacs, “The fact that she can provide routine dental care in such a gentle and caring way is incredible. She offers an invaluable service for people who would have a difficult time going out for a dental appointment.”
Isaacs gets some of her patients through Exceptional Needs Dental Services, a Portland-based collaboration of dental clinics that provides Medicaid-funded care to impaired, low-income people who are unable to get treatment in office settings. For her non-Medicaid related work, Isaacs typically charges her private patients or their families, $100 to $150 per visit.
There is no doubt that her efforts are being recognized and her work is being celebrated, as she received a National award sponsored by Sunstar, a dental products manufacturer, and RDH, a magazine for dental hygiene professionals. Isaacs, along with three others hygienists, were recognized for their “educational contributions, community programs, and significant increases of access to care,” according to RDH.
Dentistry runs in the family: Isaacs grew up on the East Coast. Her father was a dentist and her mother was a dental hygienist. Her brother is a dentist in Delaware. After graduating from dental hygiene school in Boston, she moved to California in 1982. She worked as a dental hygienist in Northern California, then moved to Alaska with her first husband and two young daughters. The family returned to California after three years. Isaacs lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for another 15 years before moving to Oregon in 2013 with her second husband, Joseph Piekutoski.
Isaacs looks after patients in Marion, Benton, Linn and Lane counties — from Salem to Eugene and is highly praised for her efforts.