The RDH PIRA (Patient Impact & Rise Above) recognition program, sponsored by Water Pik, Inc., features dental hygiene clinicians who go the extra mile in their job to change their patients’ lives, influence their patients’ health, and make a daily difference. This issue, the honor goes to Christine Sanaphay, RDH, for her volunteer work with the underserved, and Megan Malzone, MS, RDH, for her contributions to public health and education.
"Love what you do"
In her 17 years of practicing dental hygiene, Christine Sanaphay, RDH, has helped her community through volunteer activities, especially with underprivileged children. She participated in the TeamSmile and Arizona Coyotes programs. These programs provided life-changing dental care to 280 underserved children in Tempe, Arizona, while making it a fun experience for the children. She also volunteered with Special Smiles for the Special Olympics fall games in Peoria, Arizona.
Christine has also helped kids overseas. As part of the Arizona Dental Missions team, she traveled to the Philippines in 2011 where she administered local anesthesia to children who needed extractions of teeth that were no longer restorable. In 2016 and 2018, she provided dental cleanings for children in Cambodia. Christine and the Arizona Dental Missions team partnered with Agape International Missions (AIM) and provided dental care to those who have been affected by human trafficking and child sexual slavery.
Christine is a full-time dental hygienist in a private practice. She enjoys building long-lasting relationships with patients and helping them overcome dental anxiety. Her goal is for every patient to want to come back so she can help them maintain their oral health with personalized compassionate care. She is the lead hygienist in her practice and enjoys mentoring other hygienists. Christine believes that being a leader motivates her to be a good role model for her colleagues. Her motto is: “Love what you do.”
Christine was born in Phoenix and grew up in Peoria, Arizona. English was her second language, which she learned quickly in grade school. Her mother was a dental assistant who frequently brought her daughter to work with her, where Christine started to work at the age of 12. She first wanted to be a dentist but became pregnant during her first year in college. Being a young mom motivated her to finish school sooner, so she became a dental hygienist rather than a dentist, working as a receptionist in a dental office during her education.
Christine’s greatest professional success is “being part of a private dental practice for 14 years and being able to contribute to improving the oral health and overall health of patients. It makes my heart happy when patients enjoy coming back to their dental visits because they are motivated to improve their oral health.”
Christine’s professional guidance for new dental hygiene graduates is to love what you do, and listen to your patients. “When you are passionate about what you do, patients can truly feel it, and it makes you feel more fulfilled. Listening to patients and learning to connect with people will also show how much you care.”
Clinical tips that have made Christine a better clinician include auditing charts and being prepared for the day. She also utilizes the intraoral camera, good Cavitron tips, and laser therapy. “Giving painless injections is very much appreciated by patients, and I always make sure patients are comfortable during their appointments.”
In the beginning of her career, Christine says she was a workaholic, working five-plus days a week for many years. Since wellness is very important to her, she recently transitioned to a four-day workweek with a three-day weekend. “In order for me to continue to do what I love, I try to make it a priority to stay fit.” Hiking in Sedona, Arizona, is one of her favorite ways to do just that.
Connect with Christine at on Instagram: christine_smiles_rdh.
Read about more PIRA honorees
"We are constantly learning and growing"
As the daughter of a dental assistant, Megan Malzone, MS, RDH, has heard about the dental profession all her life, deciding to become a hygienist by the time she entered high school. As president of her dental hygiene class, Megan helped organize community events that the students participated in, including free dental cleanings, radiographs, pit and fissure sealants, and fluoride treatments to children in the community. These experiences sparked her interest in public health dentistry.
After graduation, Megan took on many leadership and management roles and organized giveback events in her community. She implemented free dental work days, annual free dental work on Veterans Day, as well as discounted plans for those without dental insurance and low-income families.
Megan graduated from Prairie State College in 2013. In 2021, she went back to school to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in health-care administration and then completed a Master of Science degree in organizational leadership in 2023.
Three years ago, Megan found a new passion in education. She expanded her role and became an adjunct faculty instructor. As a dental hygiene instructor, she sees her giveback in a new light. Not only is she able to share her experiences in the dental field with her students, but she is also able to encourage them to make an impact as dental hygienists. Being a mentor to students throughout their program, as well as after graduation, has been one of her proudest accomplishments. She also currently works part-time clinically as a public health dental hygienist.
“My greatest professional success was becoming an instructor in the dental hygiene program," Megan says. "One of my biggest goals after graduation was to come back and teach those who were passionate about being a part of the dental hygiene field. I taught during the COVID-19 pandemic and learned to adapt to the restrictions and changes that were in place when it came to patient care. Teaching students remotely was challenging but also very rewarding. Today, I still work with new graduates from our program and have students reach out after graduation thanking me for things that I taught them during their time in the program. That has been one of my most rewarding accomplishments.”
Professional guidance to new graduates: “After graduation, adapting to being on your own can be stressful, especially when instructors are not monitoring your every move. Be confident in the material and skills you learned during your program, and always ask questions when you do not know how to do something. Continue learning, even after graduation. Learn about and observe other areas and specialties of the dental office and dental field. This will give you more insight on procedures, techniques, etc. when discussing them with patients during their appointments. It doesn't matter if you are a new graduate or seasoned veteran in this field; we are constantly learning and growing. Being able to easily adapt to changes will make you a successful hygienist!”
Clinical tips: “I never clean teeth without my loupes and LED light! They make everything easier to see and help me in the proper ergonomics when I am chairside. I find that when I am not using a saddle chair, I tend to stand for a majority of appointments. It took me a few years to get used to, but has decreased the stress of sitting and aches or pains. The best tip I can give is if something is hard to remove or does not feel right, then something probably isn’t right. Go back to the basics by readjusting your chair, patient, or light, and make sure your instruments are sharp!”
When she isn't working, Megan enjoys spending time with her husband, family, friends, and rescue dog. Traveling is a favorite activity, including hiking a new national park every year.
Connect with Megan on Instagram: @megmal1491 or at linkedin.com/in/megan-malzone-039426173