Cris Duval, RDH Joins the BaleDoneen Method as the Oral Wellness Liaison
After 46 years as a dental hygienist, Cris Duval, RDH has a new mission: to educate dental providers about their potentially lifesaving role in heart attack and stroke prevention. As the Oral Wellness Liaison for the BaleDoneen Method, Duval hopes to help families avoid the terrifying tragedy she experienced on Easter Sunday, 2016. “I woke up in the middle of the night to find Gary — my husband of 48 years — gasping for air in the throes of a devastating heart attack,” Duval says.
Four days later, Gary, 69, died. “During his final moments, I crawled into his hospital bed, drew him into my arms, and reminded him how much he was loved. I thanked him for choosing me as his partner in life. Those moments were his parting gifts to me — and in return, my gift to him was promising to make the rest of my life matter,” recalls Duval, who also lost her father to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading killer of Americans.
To fulfill that promise, she’s helping people optimize their oral and arterial wellness with the BaleDoneen Method (BDM). “The dental practice where I used to work was very focused on helping patients keep their whole bodies — not just their teeth and gums — healthy,” says Duval. “In 2010, I went to a talk by Dr. Amy Doneen and was very excited to learn about her science-based approach to heart attack and stroke prevention that uncovers hidden risk factors, including periodontal (gum) disease.”
When she went to Dr. Doneen’s clinic, the Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center, in Spokane, Washington, for an evaluation, she was shocked by her test results. “Not only did I have genetic risks, particularly for stroke, but I was also on the path to insulin resistance and diabetes,” recalls Duval, who cut out sugar, switched to a diet based on her DNA, and began walking two to three miles daily. “Not only did I lose 30 pounds, but I was amazed at how much my test results improved — without medications!”
In 2011, Gary was diagnosed with CVD. “He was hospitalized to get a stent to treat blockage in his ‘widow-maker’ coronary artery. I wanted him to go to Amy’s clinic for treatment, but he didn’t think that was necessary because he was under the care of a cardiologist,” says Duval. “After his death, I used some of my retirement savings to have 33 of my relatives evaluated by Amy, because I didn’t want anyone else in my family to wake at 2 a.m. to find their spouse having a heart attack.”
Duval has also sponsored a scholarship program that pays for two dental providers each year to attend the BaleDoneen Method Preceptorship Course. Approved by the American Academy of Family Physicians for up to 17.5 CME/CE credits, the two-day course, offered in major cities around the United States twice a year, teaches the latest science of heart attack and stroke prevention, using the BDM practiced by hundreds of clinicians around the world. Two recent peer-reviewed studies have shown that this genetically guided, precision-medicine approach can prevent, halt or even reverse arterial disease.
In her new role as Oral Wellness Liaison to the BDM, Duval, who has completed the preceptorship training herself, wants to highlight its value to the dental community. A recent landmark BaleDoneen Method study was the first to identify oral bacteria from gum disease as a contributing cause of CVD. This discovery could revolutionize how dentistry is practiced, since optimal dental care, including oral DNA testing to check patients for high-risk dental pathogens and guide their treatment, could help patients avoid heart attacks and strokes.
The first recipient of the scholarship is her son, Ryan Duval, DDS, an endodontist. He’ll be attending the November 2-3 preceptorship program in Atlanta, Georgia both to honor his father’s memory and take the care he offers his patients to the next level of excellence. An application for the scholarship program is currently being developed. The program will sponsor dental attendees in 2019 and beyond.
“I strongly believe that it’s my responsibility to give back,” says Duval. “And when I take care of others, I am taken care of in return, because the person who receives this gift will use it to improve patients’ care and empower them with the knowledge they need to avoid heart attacks and strokes. If this scholarship leads to improved oral-systemic care that saves even one life, that would be the greatest gift of all!”