More than a routine checkup

One doctor shares her views on the importance of oral systemic health and how it effects the way she works with patients.

As the initials following her name indicate, Shelley D. Shults, RN, DDS, D.ABDSM, is a lifelong learner.

Shults graduated from nursing school in 1982 and worked as a community health nurse before working in internal medicine, family practice and urgent care. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2001 before becoming board certified as a Diplomate in Dental Sleep Medicine. Now she is pursuing an Advanced Nurse Practitioner master’s degree with the goal of continuing to serve her patients as a nurse-dentist focusing on oral systemic health and obstructive sleep apnea. “I have the desire to continue to learn and do everything I can to enrich the lives of the patients I care for,” she said.

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With the help of her husband and daughter Krista (who is also her office manager), Shults opened Powell Dental Group in 2005. She believes that her role as a dentist is about more than caring for patients’ teeth. With her background in nursing, Shults is a patient advocate who provides holistic healthcare. She believes that the mouth is the window to the rest of the body and her dental care involves far more than a routine checkup

With each patient, Dr. Shults reviews medical history, performs an intraoral exam, an extraoral exam, a TMJ and head and neck cancer screening, reviews radiographs, considers the psycho-social aspect of their life, and coordinates primary care and interdisciplinary collaboration. “I take a holistic, comprehensive approach that involves treating the whole person,” she said.

Shults’ focus on all-over wellness gives her the opportunity to help improve patients’ lives and enhance the way they feel about themselves. It has also resulted in some serious diagnoses. In one instance, the questions Shults asked a patient during a routine dental exam revealed that the patient had acutely lost hearing in one ear and was taking a medication that hadn’t been effective. One thing led to another, and soon Shults was conducting a thorough ear exam that indicated that something was seriously wrong. Shults referred the patient to an ear, nose and throat specialist who found a brain tumor at the base of the patient’s skull. Fortunately, the tumor was discovered in time and the patient continues to receive specialty medical care and lives a healthy, productive life.

Although these types of diagnoses are uncommon, Shults says it’s an example of how important it is to ask the right questions. “Carefully listening to patients speak of their health concerns provides the practitioner clues and direction for referrals. Medical and dental professionals need to work together as a unified, multidisciplinary team in order to provide comprehensive care for patients,” she added.

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Shults’ holistic approach to dentistry has been extremely popular and with the help of her Patterson representative, Chris Sanford, Powell Dental Group is running smoothly. “Chris has been instrumental in the success of the practice,” said Shults. “He informs us of opportunities, helps us find the best deals for our purchases, and keeps us abreast of the latest in technological advances and educational opportunities,” she said.

The result has been tremendous growth of the practice, which offers limited orthodontics among its services, in the past year. Shults, along with her two associate dentists and her staff members, is seeing 60 new patients a month, all from word-of-mouth referrals.

“It’s a result of doing the right thing,” Shults explained. “I don’t focus on what dentistry can do for me but what I can do for dentistry, and for each patient. The result is a successful practice that I am really proud of.”