By Genni Burkhart
Kristen Ritzau, DDS, a general dentist with 13 years of experience, founded Shoreline Dental Studio in San Clemente in 2012. Over the past ten years, her business has expanded to 40 employees and four dentists, and in 2021 she added a second location in Mission Viejo, California.
Dr. Ritzau has been practicing sedation dentistry for 12 years, completing her first DOCS training in 2011 to receive her OCS certificate in CA. In a recent interview with the Incisor, she discussed the benefits of sedation dentistry in her practice and how it contributes to her patients' overall happiness and health.
Getting to Know Dr. Ritzau
Dr. Ritzau received her BS in Biology from Point Loma Nazarene University, where she played on the women's soccer team for four years. She went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from UCLA School of Dentistry in 2010.
In 2015 Dr. Ritzau was recognized as one of the "Top 40 Under 40 Dentists" by Incisal Edge Magazine.
Furthermore, Dr. Ritzau is an Invisalign Diamond Level provider (Top 1% in the country) and received her fellowship from the American Academy of Clear Aligners (AACA) in 2022. She currently serves on the board of the AACA and leads the Orange County AACA Study Club.
Since 2017, her office has partnered with Smiles for Freedom to provide an annual day of free dentistry for Veterans. In addition, Shoreline employees are provided with "Shoreline Bucks" to help patients in need at any time throughout the year, which has sometimes even helped patients receive oral sedation services when their budget wouldn't have otherwise allowed it.
With her husband of 15 years, Cory, the Ritzaus share a remarkable personal and professional life and have two children, Hayley (8) and Hunter (5). They enjoy spending time at the beach, surfing, and attending sporting events as a family. So naturally, they're all about skiing and snowboarding as a family in the winter. Dr. Ritzau also enjoys personal fitness with weekly workouts at Orangetheory Fitness, spin, and yoga classes, and has completed two marathons.
Why Sedation Dentistry?
When we asked Dr. Ritzau how sedation dentistry has impacted her practice, she explained:
"Sedation dentistry has allowed me and my team to serve an entire group of patients who wouldn't usually be able to complete their dental care due to their anxieties and fears. In my office, we often meet patients who have not seen a dentist in 10+ years and face many dental concerns, from perio, to surgical and restorative. Oral sedation has made it possible to provide them with comprehensive care safely, comfortably, and efficiently, often completing all recommended treatments in a single appointment instead of multiple anxiety-provoking single visits.
"I believe oral sedation allows me to be a better dentist. When I know the patient in my chair is relaxed, I can focus on doing the best dental work possible without managing their anxieties on top of the procedures.
"As a team who believes in the benefits of sedation dentistry, we can speak confidently to any of our patients about our ability to provide an experience different than what they may have experienced in the past. That confidence translates into patients trusting us to deliver their care and saying yes to comprehensive treatment instead of just emergency care or patchwork dentistry which is common to patients with dental anxiety."
As a general dental practice, Shoreline Dental performs a great deal of full-mouth rehabilitation and smile makeovers. So, it stands without saying that oral sedation is a highly effective tool in making both anxious and non-anxious patients feel more comfortable and relaxed during these sometimes lengthy appointments.
Due to its effectiveness, oral sedation has become a standard treatment option at Shoreline. Consequently, Dr. Ritzau requires all of her dentists to be OCS certified and to have them complete their training with DOCS within the first six months of working at her practice.
Sedation Leads to Unimaginable Success
A remarkable oral sedation success story is that of a patient we will call "Kay." When Dr. Ritzau first met Kay, she suffered from severe dental anxiety due to a nightmarish history of being a victim of a gunshot wound to her mouth. This incident left her with several missing teeth, and PTSD brought on by anything placed in her mouth.
At that first appointment, her goal was to receive routine dental care, replace a few broken crowns, and get a complete dental cleaning. However, due to her history of severe anxiety, Dr. Ritzau was unsure if oral sedation would be enough to relax her to allow us to complete the work. Therefore, she did test sedation, using the Hydroxyzine and dosed Triazolam protocol which was successful enough to enable X-rays and the comp exam.
From there on, Dr. Ritzau was confident enough to complete the rest of Kay's dental work using the same protocol. The success of these first few appointments increased Kay's trust and decreased her anxiety – so much so that she was eventually able to receive her hygiene maintenance without further sedation.
While Kay had come a long way in managing her fears, her smile remained a constant reminder of what had happened. Eventually, she was ready to do a complete smile makeover, including replacing her missing teeth.
Dr. Ritzau completed full mouth rehabilitation with 23 crowns and a partial denture in only three appointments using oral sedation. And while completing this dental work was an enormous effort for both provider and patient, the biggest reward was seeing Kay finally smiling confidently!
At Shoreline Dental, one of their core values is providing patient-centric care, or always looking for ways to make their patient's experience the best in all aspects. "Since dental anxiety is one of the most common fears in adults, being able to offer something that overcomes that fear was a no-brainer," emphasizes Dr. Ritzau.
Oral sedation allows Dr. Ritzau and her entire Shoreline Dental Studio team to create a comfortable experience for their patients at a relatively low cost without coordinating the time and expense of an anesthesiologist.
"Sedation dentistry is more than just treating nervous patients; it's an important tool that allows me to provide comprehensive care comfortably and efficiently for myself and my patients." ~Dr. Ritzau
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Author: With over 13 years as a published journalist, editor, and writer Genni Burkhart's career has spanned politics, healthcare, law, business finance, technology, and news. She resides on the western shores of the idyllic Puget Sound, where she works as the Editor in Chief for the Incisor at DOCS Education out of Seattle, WA.