Entrepreneurs Tina Mavriyannakis, RRDH, left, and Kelly Tanner, RDH.

The entrepreneurial hygienist: Changing how care is delivered

Nov. 8, 2022
These hygienists have an entrepreneurial spirit and are changing the world as founders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. Here's how they're doing it.

I'm thrilled to partner with RDH magazine to bring you a new series. I’ll be highlighting dental hygienists around the world who have an entrepreneurial spirit and who are changing the world as founders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. Each of these powerful individuals has a unique story and would not be where they are today without their experiences in dental hygiene. 

If you’ve caught the entrepreneurial bug and are considering pursuing this path, there are three key themes. These themes will help you grow your own business and, perhaps surprisingly, help you grow personally.

  1. Set aside time, money, and energy each month to invest in yourself and your business.
  2. Surround yourself with like-minded people and communities.
  3. Know it’s OK to put the cart before the horse and take one small step at a time, figuring out the “how” later. 

Tina Mavriyannakis, RRDH
IG: @thatrestogirl @the_smile_room
Founder/CEO, The Smile Room 

Business description: The Smile Room has changed how dental hygiene is delivered. We bring the dental office to people—where they live and where they work. Our goal is to make oral health accessible to all Canadians. 

Years in dentistry: 27

Do you practice clinical dental hygiene? Yes, four days per week.

What is your inspiration behind this business? Many years of hearing about people's dental wishes.

How has a career in dental hygiene prepared you for business ownership? It has and it hasn’t prepared me. I learned about management and setting up dental practices when I took on management roles with my dentist partner. We grew his practice from one to 30-plus practices across Canada. I took on roles that were not typical for an RDH practitioner. However, I found mobile dental practices to be a completely different business model in many ways.

What’s been the most positive aspect of owning a business? It’s overwhelming to think about how many people’s lives have changed because I decided to do this. It’s a feeling I did not anticipate and it’s hard to describe.

What’s been the hardest aspect of owning a business? COVID

Where do you hope to be in 10 years? I hope to own a mobile DSO that services elder care and corporate communities across Canada.

What’s your biggest takeaway from becoming an entrepreneur? It's hard work. You wear many hats, and you will fail many times along the way. You need to love what you’re doing and remember why you’re doing it; then all the rest won't matter. 

What is your advice for anyone interested in starting a business? Start it for the right reasons and remember your why. Take the time to learn about business plans and management.

Who has mentored or inspired you? Matthew Karavos, Jeff Smith, Irene Iancu, and Angie Stone

Want to share any final words? This started as a passion project for me. I thought I knew what the obstacles to care were, and I was going to remove them. What became apparent very quickly was that I knew very little. The underserved community is not just the poor. Starting this business has renewed my energy and passion for bettering the oral health in our communities and, in turn, bettering overall health. 

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Kelly Tanner, PhD, RDH
IG: @nextleveldh
CEO, Next Level Dental Hygiene 

Business description: Next Level Dental Hygiene is a global educational organization for dental hygienists who want to increase their skills, leadership, and confidence in their career. Our mission is to help hygienists improve their career satisfaction and skills by providing educational paths for their career focus area. We meet hygienists where they are in their careers, empowering their leadership mindset in order to change the profession and change lives. We believe everyone wins when hygienists have access to education and insight that empowers their “why.” We believe in the unlimited potential of each person and constantly work to unlock that in ourselves and in the profession. 

Years in dentistry: 31

Do you practice clinical dental hygiene? Yes, a half day a month.

What is the inspiration behind this business? I wanted to empower people in our profession to know their full potential and wanted to offer them individual, professional guidance to lean into their gifts and purpose to serve the profession.

How has a career in dental hygiene prepared you for business ownership? Dental hygiene is about building connections and obtaining trust, which are essential to owning a business. We learned in hygiene school how to be lifelong learners and that we can do whatever we put our minds to. After all, we got through hygiene school, right? Because dental hygienists innately put their patients first while also being resourceful, we’re primed to be successful business owners. We’re able to learn and apply skills. If I didn't know how to do something, what mattered was the "what" I wanted to do, and I knew I could figure out the "how." I’ve applied these skills throughout my career. I’ve also surrounded myself with colleagues and friends who challenge me in my thoughts and actions and help me grow and become at least 1% better each day.

What’s been the most positive aspect of owning a business? The most positive thing is that I’m living my bliss and passion daily by helping the profession.

What’s been the hardest aspect of owning a business? The hardest thing is wanting to do everything at once and not knowing where to begin.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years? Next Level Dental Hygiene will be the community and learning platform for dental hygienists who want to grow in any area of their career.

What’s your biggest takeaway about becoming an entrepreneur? Whether you believe you can or can’t, you’re right! Your journey begins with getting it out of your mind and into action. Embrace the imperfections because we all make mistakes and learn from them. Imperfections and what we perceive as failures are always a gift.  

What is your advice for anyone interested in starting a business? Know that even if someone else is doing what you want to do, there is space for you to do it too! It doesn't have to be perfect to launch—just do it! Surround yourself with people who will provide you with honest and loving input to help you grow. Focus on "what" first and "how" second.

Who has mentored or inspired you in your journey? Michele Darby and Dr. Mark Hyman

Any final words? Try not to compare yourself to other people's success. You have your own path and learning opportunities that are unique for your journey.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the November 2022 print edition of RDH magazine. Dental hygienists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.