Michigan Dental Hygienist Reaches Underserved
After completing an Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Siena Heights University in Adria, Michigan, Tiffany Burns, RDH, BS, knew she wanted to work with underserved patients.
After completing an Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Siena Heights University in Adria, Michigan, Tiffany Burns, RDH, BS, knew she wanted to work with underserved patients. While she began her career in private practice, Burns’ dream of helping those with little to no access to professional dental care was about to be realized.
“While working in private practice, I created a nonprofit, Smile Savers Mobile Dental Health Service. After 12 years of working in the private sector and juggling Smile Savers in between, I realized my passion and purpose was in public health, so I quit my job,” Burns explains. Today, she runs Smile Savers full-time and substitutes in private practice occasionally. By running her own business, Burns gains several benefits, such as a flexible schedule and the freedom to take as much time as needed to provide dental assessments, prophylaxes, patient education, sealant application, and topical fluoride administration. Her mobile dental clinic visits senior homes/centers, juvenile facilities, early head start centers, homeless shelters, and assisted living facilities on a weekly basis. Burns is recognized as a PA161 provider, which in the state of Michigan, enables her to serve as an independent provider and bill insurance.
Burns finds her work immensely rewarding. She creates long-lasting bonds with her patients and loves to celebrate their successes. “When I see the improvement in a patient’s oral health due to following my suggestions—especially those difficult, noncompliant, and nonflossing patients—it confirms why I LOVE this profession. Giving people a sense of confidence through their smile is also rewarding for me,”Burns notes.
Creating enduring change for underserved populations is also one of Burns’ passions. With Smile Savers, she is working with Cradle of Kalamazoo and the YWCA to provide oral health services and much-needed patient education to pregnant women and mothers with infants in order to combat Kalamazoo’s high infant mortality rates among African-American populations. In addition, she is a significant proponent of expanding the scope of practice for dental hygienists in Michigan and beyond to enable more patients—especially those living in underserved areas—to receive the oral health care they so desperately need.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. October 2019;17(9):14.