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, she 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,” Cris 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 Cris, who also lost her father to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading killer of Americans.
When she went to Dr. Amy 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,” says Cris, 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 Cris. “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.”
Cris 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.
As Oral Wellness Liaison to the BDM, Cris, 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.
Cris has received the Oral Cancer Foundation’s Award for Excellence in Public Service and its Dental Lifesaver award. She also received the Award for Significant Contribution to Science and Patient Care from the International Association of Ozone in Healthcare & Dentistry. Her articles have appeared in RDH Magazine, AAOSH Connect: The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health Newsletter, IneedCE and Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry.
A sought-after speaker, Cris has presented at many medical conferences, including the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health Annual Scientific Session, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Conference, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry Conference, the Association of Ozone in Healthcare & Dentistry Congress, and the Dental Ozone Therapies Group and the Pathfinders’ Group Conference. She has taught the “Basic Ozone Course” at the U.S. Pathfinders Group Conference twice a year from 2009 to the present.
Cris has also taught a master class for dental professionals, filmed patient videos and discussed a variety of oral wellness topics on radio and television. She’s passionately committed to saving lives, hearts and smiles through education to empower patients and help dental providers optimize their oral and systemic care.
Cris’ son, Ryan Duval, DDS, an endodontist, was selected as the first recipient of the preceptorship scholarship, enabling him to honor his father’s memory and take the care he offers to 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 Cris. “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!”