Lori Dietz’s training and job experience have brought her full circle at Northampton Community College – from student to teacher. Her career as a dental hygienist also has presented opportunities that have enriched her life. 

Lori Dietz Photos by Randy Monceaux

“I worked in a dental practice in Switzerland for a year and a half after I graduated from NCC, and it was wonderful,” said Dietz, 42, of Pen Argyl. “I’ve also participated in medical mission trips to Brazil, and that’s been so meaningful. I consider myself to be very lucky.” 

Dietz, a 2002 graduate of NCC’s dental hygienist program who is about to complete her bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, will present her capstone continuing education project Saturday, Nov.  21 during NCC’s online Dental Symposium. Her topic is “Don’t Fall Asleep with Your Mouth Open: The Dental Team’s Role in Sleep Apnea.” 

A condition that, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association affects 22 million Americans, sleep apnea is a growing concern to the dental community, which often is on the front line for diagnosing and treating it. The condition occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked by the tongue and soft palate collapsing upon it during sleep. If not treated, sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems. It also is associated with type 2 diabetes, depression, and persistent fatigue and drowsiness that can lead to accidents. 

“There is new correlation between dental hygiene, oral health, and sleep apnea,” Dietz explained. “We are in the unique position of being able to see signs that may indicate the possibility of the condition in our patients. If those signs are present, we can ask some question to help with a possible diagnosis.”  

Clues that may point to the presence of sleep apnea include teeth that are worn from grinding, a large tongue, or certain other characteristics. If it is determined a patient is suffering from the condition, a dental team may be able to treat a patient using an oral sleep appliance that shifts the position of the jaw, lifting the tongue from the airway and enabling regular breathing. That simple sleep appliance may eliminate the need for a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a treatment tool many patients find cumbersome to use and maintain. 

 

“It’s just another advancement in making the connection between oral health and overall health.”

Lori Dietz ’02

“We’ve learned a lot about this over the past few years, and it’s something that’s very up and coming in the dental field,” Dietz said. “It’s just another advancement in making the connection between oral health and overall health.”  

While she would prefer to present in person, Dietz is looking forward the Dental Symposium. Teaching has become increasingly important to her and has connected her back to NCC, where she trained for the profession she loves. 

“Completing the dental hygienist program at NCC was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she said. “But it was so impactful that it made me want to come back to the curriculum, and now I get to teach with some of the teachers who had such an impact on me as a student.” 

While she intends to remain active in the dental field and hopes to continue teaching at NCC, Dietz’s experiences with mission trips ignited an interest in public health, a field in which she plans to earn a master’s degree.  

“I hope to be able to meld my work in public health with those kinds of trips,” she said. “There’s such a need for health care, including dental care, all over the world.” 

Dietz’s plan to achieve a master’s degree is ambitious, as she works part time as dental hygienist in a private practice; teaches part time at NCC; is the wife of a private pilot who  is working on a degree from Liberty University; and the mother of three children, the oldest of whom is a student in NCC’s computer science program.  

“We’ve got a lot going on and sometimes it’s a whirlwind,” Dietz said. “But I’m looking forward to all that the future has to offer and to seeing how I can give back while working in public health. I feel there are a lot of open doors in that field.”  

About Lori Dietz’s Presentation: Don’t Fall Asleep with Your Mouth Open: The Dental Team’s Role in Sleep Apnea* (DENTL413)  

Lori Dietz, a registered dental hygienist and 2002 graduate of NCC’s dental hygiene program, will share her capstone continuing education project on sleep apnea during an online presentation Saturday, Nov. 21 from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m. Dietz is a BS degree candidate at Pennsylvania College of Technology, set to graduate in December. Through lecture, break-out sessions and a question-and-answer period, her presentation will cover: obstructive sleep apnea risk factors, assessment, diagnosis, home sleep tests, polysomnography, and treatment options. The cost to attend is $10 for NCC alumni, $30s for members of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), and $59 for non-ADHA members. CEUs: 3. For more information and to register go to https://www.northampton.edu/noncredit/center-for-business-and-industry/healthcare-education/dental-teams-continuing-education.htm.   

Lori Dietz (left) with a dental hygiene student at NCC’s Litwak Dental Clinic.