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An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Jan. 1, 2008
Elizabeth Scully, or Lily, to those who know her well, is the only girl in a family of six brothers.
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Colorado hygienist brings expert clinical care to patients in a soothing spa atmosphere.

by Cathy White, RDH, BS

Elizabeth Scully, or Lily, to those who know her well, is the only girl in a family of six brothers. Needless to say, as a child she was both mercilessly picked on and fiercely protected. She grew up into an independent, resilient, and focused woman who credits her wonderful parents, Fran and Pat Scully of Cape Cod, Mass., for being a constant source of support and inspiration.

Scully started working as a dental assistant at the tender age of 14, and she loved it.

“I found dentistry to be a very comfortable fit for me,” she said. “It was almost like I had a calling to work in dentistry, and I found it rewarding from the very beginning.”

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Scully earned her A.S. in dental hygiene from the New Hampshire Technical Institute in 1996 and is currently completing her B.S. online from Northern Arizona University.

Scully is licensed in several states and after working for 13 years in different dental practices, she felt ready to spread her wings and take her 25 years of dental experience in a different direction. She has an adventuresome spirit and her family is very entrepreneurial, with six of the seven siblings owning their own businesses. Scully’s dream was to open an independent dental hygiene practice. She researched the legalities involved and compiled information on demographics and the start-up costs of setting up her business.

Scully opted to relocate from Flagstaff, Ariz., to Montrose, Colo., the first state (way back in 1980) to allow hygienists to practice without the direct supervision of a dentist. Today, four other states — Maine, Washington, Missouri, and New Mexico — allow some form of independent practice for hygienists. Colorado is also the home of hygienist Eddie Gibson, who started an independent practice several years ago in the ski town of Crested Butte. Scully had read an article about Gibson in RDH and was inspired by the story to pursue her dream. She visited Gibson and several other hygienists working on their own in Colorado to learn more about what was involved in operating her own business.

Scully also wanted to provide clients with a very different experience from that found in a traditional dental office.

“Most patients don’t look forward to any aspect of dentistry except leaving the office when their procedure is done,” she said. “My vision was to provide hygiene care in an atmosphere that was less clinical and intimidating and more calming and relaxing.”

Soon after moving to Montrose, Scully met with Connie Trosper, LE, and Cindy Donohue, CMT, owners of Main Street Essentials Day Spa. They were planning to move their growing business to a more expansive facility and were very receptive to adding the services that Scully could provide.

“The new spa, with its pleasing palette, soft music, trickling waters, and hushed, immaculate atmosphere is the perfect, serene spot to help patients relax and have a positive dental experience,” Scully said. “The focus at Main Street Essentials is on helping clients feel and look wonderful, while having an exceptional, personalized, pampering experience.” Scully offers complete prophylaxis services and teeth whitening, which combine perfectly with other spa options. “A client might want to have a facial while her teeth are undergoing whitening, or have a relaxing massage before or after a prophylaxis,” she said. “I love to have a close connection with my patients, help educate them in any way I can, and make the experience fun and pleasurable for them. Taking good care of oneself in every way is something all of us at Main Street Essentials emphasize.”

Scully believes that a person should be able to choose his or her hygienist just as he or she would choose a dentist. She works closely with local dentists and always stresses to patients the need to see a dentist for regular exams and necessary dental work. She does a thorough workup on all patients including a health history, intra- and extraoral cancer screening, periodontal probing and charting, and a blood pressure check if indicated. But she also provides the soothing scent of aromatherapy candles, a heated neck drape, a lavender-scented eye bag, and the relaxing sounds of soft music and cascading water to increase her patients’ comfort level. She is a firm believer in a healthy lifestyle and tries to incorporate natural and organic products whenever possible. She charges competitive fees for her services, offers insurance reimbursement, flexible scheduling, including evening and weekend appointments, and state-of-the-art equipment in a relaxing atmosphere. Since there is no fee for an exam or X-rays, many patients find it more economical to visit Scully for hygiene care.

Scully did her homework and planned and budgeted for her business. Her dental chair has custom upholstery made with memory foam for extra comfort, and her operatory is equipped with a Cavitron, Prophy Jet, Statim sterilizer, dental light, mobile cart with compressor, and all the other accoutrements of a typical hygiene room in a regular practice. Paying for all start-up and maintenance costs is not for the faint of heart, and Scully advises anyone planning on starting an independent practice to be prepared to spend in the $40,000 to $50,000 range to get everything up and running. Also, be prepared to be able to afford all living and business expenses during the beginning months the practice is open. Building a clientele in any practice takes time.

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“Being located in the spa, as opposed to working in an operatory in a building all by myself has many benefits — a great atmosphere, a beautiful facility, a front office with a receptionist already in place, and ongoing exposure from a constant flow of established spa clients who might also be interested in hygiene care,” Scully said. She named her new practice Mountain Oasis, befitting its location in a town ringed by the beautiful San Juan Mountains and its peaceful spa locale.

Scully has traveled around much of the country. An avid outdoor lover, she is enamored of her new home in western Colorado and finds it to be the perfect place to indulge her love of biking, tennis, and hiking with her dog Tasha in the countryside surrounding her home. She also loves listening to live music and traveling to Flagstaff to visit family whenever she can. Scully feels that she made the right decision in moving into an independent practice and is excited about the future.

“It’s a joy to go to work each day in a beautiful setting with great co-workers, knowing I am bringing my patients expert clinical care in a soothing and restorative atmosphere.”

Scully can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Cathy White, RDH, BS, has worked in private practice and in sales and management in the dental manufacturing industry. She lives in Montrose, Colo., and currently works as a freelance writer.