by Wendy Bebey, RDH, BS, and Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS
Do you like to gamble? Would you risk losing your retirement savings to bring your vision to life? Many of us have been impacted by the economic downturn. Ann Benson, RDH, took a gamble in these challenging times by investing in her vision, against the advice of her financial planner, and she was able to bring her dream to life. She cashed in her retirement just before the stock market crashed, and she knows now her timing could not have been better; she would have lost more than she has gained. Her creation, Mobile Dentistry of Arizona, was worth the risk. The good news is Ann’s investment into her dream has already paid back her retirement account. This is her story of how she brought passion to her life.
Ann is an inspiration to those who know her, and she is someone you should know. Many of us have ideas about how we would like to branch out and change our work environment. But how many of us bring our vision to reality and become our own boss? Too often, we are content to stay in our comfort zone because it is the safe and easy thing to do. Ann’s inspiration comes from the many dental professionals around the country she has met throughout her career. In March 2007, she attended a continuing education seminar that ultimately changed her life; the topic was mobile-based Dental Practice. Ann was inspired to find a way to serve the unmet dental needs of the elderly, and to break through the barriers to care issues faced by the fastest growing population in the U.S. She saw a need and she acted on it. In June 2009, she opened Mobile Dentistry of Arizona (www.mobiledentistryofaz.com).
What does it take to bring your vision to life? First, it takes passion and commitment, not to mention a lot of hard work. Ann had always worked in more than one dental practice, and well beyond 40 hours a week. Her philosophy to provide comprehensive care for the underserved who can’t access dental services was that she would go to them, and she knew her business model would work. She knew that her dental services would be valued and needed.
Think about some of the elderly patients you treat who are residents in assisted or nursing homes. How difficult is it for them to get to your practice? Now, think about how much different it would be if you were equipped to bring treatment directly to them. In this dream world, you can coordinate their treatment with their medical and physical needs in mind. Ann’s vision was to do just that. She knew bringing her dream to life would take collaboration; she initially worked with a retired dentist as a business partner. Her dream also meant purchasing specialized equipment. She had to find clients willing to sign on. This meant learning the ropes of meeting with facilities such as nursing homes, assisting living facilities, long-term care communities, and other age-qualified communities. The residents of these communities face quite a challenge with access to care. The more Ann researched, the more need she found.
Starting her business didn’t mean just flipping the switch to on. Ann continued to work in private practice while gradually taking on residents. If she wasn’t seeing patients, she was on the phone making new contacts for her mobile practice. She lived paycheck to paycheck as she got started, having to wait to purchase additional instruments and supplies in small increments. Gradually, as new communities signed on, she decreased her private practice hours until her mobile practice filled all her time.
Ann has stayed true to her vision and continues to grow her practice. She uses the term “we” when talking about her practice. She thinks of everyone she employs as family, from dentists to drivers. Having her own practice has given her the opportunity to give back to the community in ways she could never have done if she had stayed in private practice. By the way, are you enjoying reading about a hygienist who employs dentists?
You can find Ann and her staff providing free dental services, as well as visiting other communities to educate health-care professionals on the importance of good oral health. Ann receives numerous requests to speak to nondental groups. She was flattered when the head nurse at the Alzheimer’s Institute invited her to speak at their meeting. Recently, Ann has been able to employ additional hygienists to serve as educators. She has innovative ideas about how to generate new jobs for unemployed dental hygienists in her area.
How passionate and dedicated is Ann? She found out when she had to drive the mobile unit. Her driver was sick and she felt she had no choice but to fill in as the driver. She was scheduled to see a very medically comprised patient that day and could not cancel her appointment. Like many dental hygienists, she would do anything and everything she could to put the needs of her patients first. Driving with white knuckles, she managed to hold onto the steering wheel and get there. She readily admits she never wants to drive the unit again.
Ann is a very humble person and felt honored to be recognized as the first winner of the Crest Oral-B Pros in the Profession award (www.prosintheprofession.com). The award helped her realize the impact she can have to inspire others, and she never stops giving back.
When you reach a goal, what’s next? Ann is already setting new goals and hopes to expand preventive services to provide even more care to more people more often. She wants to be able to have a smaller mobile unit that she feels comfortable driving that will carry a portable set-up. Ann has been approached by investors regarding her business, but has turned them down. She is very concerned about nondental people opening mobile practices. Her greatest fear is the possibility that the mobile practice might be turned into a money-making opportunity by business people with financial motivations who have no connection to the clients. Ann believes only dental professionals have the passion, energy, and desire to make the concept successful because their heart and vision are involved; it’s not just a business. RDH
Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, is a nationally recognized speaker and author. Her energetic, thought-provoking, and successful program development shines a bright light for others to preview the future and find their place in it. Patti is a Current Dental Terminology (CDT) licensee writing a book on insurance coding. She is a certified presenter through the Academy of General Dentistry National Speaker’s Bureau for Periodontal Disease, and a member of multiple key opinion leader boards. She is a member of the National Speaker’s Association and will soon have her Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) credential. You can reach her at www.pdigangi.com.
Wendy Bebey, RDH, BS, holds the position of Dental Hygienist Relations Manager for North America for Procter & Gamble Professional Oral Health. Prior to that position she served as the Professional & Academic Relations Manager for the Northeast region. Wendy has been lecturing as a Procter & Gamble educator for nine years and has passion for representing Crest Oral B science and products to the dental community. Prior to joining P&G, Wendy practiced in both general and perio practice, and held an adjunct faculty position. Wendy can be reached at [email protected].
The Pros in the Profession award is a Crest Oral-B program that honors dental hygienists. The award program is in its second year. The various rewards for being a recipient include a $1,000 monetary prize, as well as trips to RDH Under One Roof and the headquarters for Procter & Gamble. To nominate a colleague, visit: www.prosintheprofession.com
Past RDH Issues