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Championing Gum Disease Awareness

October 19, 2020

Championing Gum Disease Awareness

Donna Williams, DDS


Marty Klein:  Welcome to Dentistry for the New Millennium. I’m Marty Klein, training manager at the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry. My guest today is Dr. Donna Williams, a general dentist in New York, New York. Dr. Williams received her doctorate of dental surgery degree from the first dental school in the world, University of Maryland, in 1990. She has worked in her private practice in Harlem, New York, since 1994. Today we’ll talk about her road as an early adopter of the PerioLase MVP-7 for the LANAP protocol in New York City and her passion behind the Fight Gum Disease initiative. Dr. Williams, thanks for being my guest today.

Donna Williams:  Thank you so much for having me.

Mk:  We like to give our guests an opportunity to tell your LANAP story. In your case, you were trained on the LANAP protocol in 2004 which is quite an early adopter, one of the first doctors in New York City, for that matter. So, first of all, how did you become aware of LANAP and tell me about your decision to get trained

DW:  In 2003, I received a fellowship from the Institute of Natural Dentistry. That is where I was introduced to Dr. Martha Cortes and one of the sessions that Dr. Cortes spoke to us about was about LANAP. I also have a background as a hygienist, and I’ve always felt that your personal health is so important to your total overall health and that’s the basis for everything. It really didn’t take much to convince me – and seeing the before and after x-rays – it really didn’t take much to convince me that that’s something that I should get more information about.

MK:  So if you’re interested in periodontal disease, did you have any laser experience? Or the fact that it was a laser, was that a component or you were just interested in a better treatment for your patients?

DW:  It was really interested in a better treatment for our patient, and to me I feel it was kind of a no brainer. I know about the incidence of periodontal disease in the United States, in New York and in the communities that I live in, where we’ve got upwards, I would say of 80% of adults having some form of periodontal disease. I felt it best to be me being the one who is helping to treat them. So it was really quite an easy decision once I saw the possibilities that were there. And then hearing the success stories, I felt absolutely this is something that I’m very interested in getting more information about.

MK:  So I would imagine that 16 years ago starting out with LANAP that the patient awareness of what LANAP was pretty low. It’s better now, but did you have any challenges implementing it or explaining what this was that you were doing to your patients?

DW:  I don’t think that I really had that many challenges. I think what really helped the patient was that the majority of the initial patients who came in, a lot of them had had traditional periodontal surgery done. And they said, ‘No, we are not going to go through that again’. And then I also have had, you know, have patients who have gone elsewhere, and they were told that they’re gonna have to have all of their teeth removed. Who to this day still has their teeth in their head? But I think just explaining to them the possibilities, patients are really interested in doing whatever they can to save their teeth. That’s what I’ve always found. And I think once explained to them, there may be a few patients who may be a little bit nervous, you know, ‘what is this laser?’ But they pretty much all gone with it. And I could say that every single person has a positive result as a result of having the LANAP treatment.

MK:  And are you still using your PerioLase MVP-7 more recently for LANAP or for any other procedures?

DW:  My team will tell (laughs) you that if I go without a day or two of doing LANAP, then I’m not happy.

MK: Talking about that, why does that make YOU happy?

DW:  Because, I do quite a few things I’m really interested in [regarding] technology in the office. So, of course we get the latest: the CERECs, the CBCTs… you know, anything that is technology oriented. That’s what we have in our office. But I will say that it started with the laser, and it was definitely the best investment I ever had as far as dental equipment. And it makes me happy because you can see the patients getting healthy. The patients can notice the difference. You know, I had a gentleman this morning who had the other side done, maybe a week or two ago, and then he came. He’s like, ‘Yeah, it feels different.’ You can see the difference.  It’s made such a difference in patient’s lives and the ability for them to keep their teeth. And it’s an easy procedure. People will tell you I go in –  I listen to a little, put a little bit of music on and just going in there and doing that, you know, it’s so easy to do and it’s kind of methodical and it’s soothing. And, you know, I really, I’m probably like a LANAP nerd.

MK:  Happy patient, happy dentist! I know that you’ve had some associate dentists as well over the years and any if not all have also been LANAP trained. Is that important to you when you have an associate in your practice, to offer the same treatment?

DW:  It absolutely is. It makes a difference and then once the associate gets it, you know they’re looking for the same thing. And so when they’re looking to the patient, their understanding that you know, a lot of some associates will see periodontal disease and bone loss on a tooth and say, ‘Okay, that needs to come out.’ And I have to really train them, ‘No, let’s try LANAP first.’ And so it’s easier when you have the willingness of the doctor on board with you. And then it makes it easier so that we can see more patients and get more patients healthier, which is what we’re trying to do.

MK:  Sounds like just a philosophy in general of saving teeth.

DW: Yes, definitely.

MK: Switching gears just a bit to the year 2012, the IALD launched the Gum Disease Awareness Month and Fight Gum Disease campaigns, which you really helped a great deal with. In 2014, we had not yet been successful in recognizing that in the state of New York. So I’d like for you to take me back to that time and explain why that initiative spoke to you, and a little bit about what you did about it.

DW:  Well, basically, it was a challenge to myself because I’m looking at, like, why is every other state you know in the country able to get February recognized for Gum Disease Awareness Month? But New York hasn’t! So I’m like, that can’t be. So, I was able to connect with some people who had some connections with Governor Andrew Cuomo and we took that proposition to them. They said, ‘, no problem. We’re on board.’ We also went to the borough presidents in the five boroughs of New York, and we got everybody on board and everybody thought it was a good idea. And to this day, actually, our our motto is by 2025 that all New Yorkers understand that oral health is a fundamental part of your total overall health, and our office wants to lead the charge in making that happen.

MK:  Well, you really were a big help in that way, so I want to thank you on behalf of the IALD. Because you were a certainly an advocate then and now of the campaign.

DW: You’re very welcome.

MK: I did want to ask you, I know you have a new book out The Power of a Smile. How, or if, that relates between the gum disease awareness or you mentioned the oral health and overall body health connection. Would you like to tell us a little more about the book?

DW:  So, yes, actually, it’s been a year now that the book came out. Tt’s called The Power of a Smile, and it really talks about the oral-systemic connection. And every single day we find more and more incidents and relationship between your oral health and your systemic health. Just a couple weeks ago, the research about people on the ventilators with periodontal disease developing pneumonia because they’re not getting their oral health taken care of. So the book really just talks about different systemic patterns. And, of course I do, you know, mention the fact that you know, I am a LANAPer and how that is something that’s important to treating your overall health. We use our mouths for everything: from smiling, to how we’re connecting with human beings from speaking, in every way. But that it’s more than just that, and that the genesis of health actually can stem from your mouth.

MK:  Very good. Well, if anyone listening is interested in that book, it’s available on Amazon. [Power of a Smile on Amazon] Also through your website that’s  For the listeners to this podcast, I hope you’ve already subscribed so that you don’t miss any episodes. All of our episodes are available wherever you download your podcasts or at Dr. Williams, Thank you for joining me and telling us about your LANAP story.

DW:  You are very welcome. I truly enjoyed it. And I just want to let anybody, any of the dentists who are out there who do not have a PerioLase – what are you waiting for? You know it’s treating your patients, it’s helping your patients overall health, restoring their health and making them have a better life. And so I didn’t regret it, not even for one moment.

MK:  Fantastic. I couldn’t have said it better. Well, thank you again and we’re signing off for now.

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