Of mouth and men
Feeling healthy? You may want to thank a dentist, like Mike Lynch, our Global Director of Oral Care, Scientific Engagement.
The connection between our oral health and overall health is well documented. In fact, the oral cavity is seen as the window to the rest of the body, given it’s the entryway to our digestive and respiratory systems. And having good oral health—through brushing, flossing and rinsing—is an important part of maintaining overall health.
As a student, Mike always had an interest in science, but didn’t really know what to do with it at first. So, when he went to college, he enrolled in a pre-med program as a biology major, determined to become a physician — but the future had other plans. His resident assistant, or “RA,” had dreams of becoming a dentist and ultimately convinced Mike to go that route as well.
Mike went on to receive his Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. While there, he became interested in oral microbiology and immunology, and even did clinical research looking at oral biomarkers — or biological signs of disease — in HIV/AIDS patients during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Through funding from the National Institutes of Health, Mike continued his HIV research at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he ultimately got his Ph.D. in oral biology in the area of bacterial genetics and completed his residency in periodontology.
A series of fortunate events
While interviewing for positions in academia and industry, Mike grew frustrated by the slow hiring process, so his department chair recommended he take a position at the American Dental Association (ADA), which would be a pathway to industry.
During his time with the ADA — the world’s largest and oldest national dental association — Mike served as the Director of Scientific Information, where he managed the development, review and publication of scientific information for the association’s membership, which consists of more than 160,000 dentists today.
Sure enough, in 2002 and less than three years after starting at the ADA, Mike wound up returning to his home state of New Jersey after being recruited by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (PCH) as Director of Oral Care, Clinical Research.
Shortly after the acquisition of PCH at the end of 2006, Mike moved into a similar role at OraPharma, a specialty pharma company. There, he was responsible for all aspects of clinical trials and programming, medical affairs, and professional liaison activities for a drug that treats periodontal disease, as well as for several medical devices used in dental surgeries. The company was sold at the end of 2010, but he made his way back in 2012 and assumed his previous role.
Until 2012, Mike practiced as a periodontist part-time and served as a dental officer in the Army Reserve, which included a 2003 medical mission to El Salvador to treat school children and being deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005.
During his time at Kenvue, Mike’s work has introduced him to people and places across the world, including Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Belarus, where he’s given lectures on oral health.
“The diversity in my professional roles and the countries they’ve brought me to are just a few examples of the breadth of dentistry and the many places this field can take you,” he said.
Mike recalls one particularly memorable event. He was in Johannesburg, South Africa, giving a lecture to a class of students training to be mid-level dental providers who were young and full of energy. But when he spoke, the youthful group sat in silence, taking in every word for a full hour.
“After the presentation, each student shook my hand, and thanked me personally,” he said. “I don’t doubt that the information from my presentation may have had an impact on them, but that pales in comparison to how much their attentiveness and appreciation meant to me then and what it still means to me today.”
Mike’s career has been full of unique, defining roles and experiences—all of which, he says, have served as stepping stones to where he is today.
Coming full circle
As a child, Mike remembers using Listerine® as part of his oral care routine. Fast forward to today, where in his current role, much of his time is spent sharing the science behind oral care products like Listerine® with key individuals and organizations in the dental health space.
For many, mouthwash may be considered a simple, one-dimensional product, but nearly 500 scientific papers have been published on Listerine® in the past century. And the research continues with a recently published clinical trial Kenvue scientists sponsored that showed Listerine® reduced plaque between the teeth 5 times better than flossing performed by a dental hygienist.
It’s not lost on Mike that one of the hallmarks of his childhood — brushing before bed — became such a symbolic part of his life and career.
“Who would have thought that someone like me — a student who did whatever he could to skip biology lab — would end up dedicating his life to oral health research?” he said.
We may never know what Mike’s professional journey would have looked like without the push from his RA, but one thing seems certain—dentistry has always been his destiny.