If you have a regular family dentist, you probably also have a family dental hygienist. But if you live in Colorado, dental hygienists also have the opportunity to open their own practices.
According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, with the passage of a statute in 1987, Colorado became the first state to allow licensed, experienced dental hygienists to open independent practices.
The hygienists’ association states that Colorado allows licensed dental hygienists to “provide dental hygiene diagnosis, radiographs, remove deposits, accretions and stains, curettage without anesthesia, apply fluorides and other recognized preventive agents, topical anesthetic, oral inspection and charting. Local anesthesia requires general supervision.”
There are at least four independent practices in the Pikes Peak Region: one in Woodland Park and three in Colorado Springs. Each practice is independently owned and, because of their locations, they don’t compete.
While they aren’t connected, the practice do share certain characteristics. They don’t have receptionists; they often work alone; and typically are fee-for-service providers who don’t take insurance. The low overhead keeps services affordable and allows them to dedicate more time to each patient.
Lisa Helland launched Summit Dental Hygiene, 300 W. Lake Ave., Woodland Park, 23 years ago. Helland recently took on a partner, Lelah Jackson. The partnership has allowed the office to expand hours and offer more services.
“We offer affordable preventive care in a low-key setting,” Jackson said. “As dental hygienists, we practice preventative care and customize the time we spend with each patient. We’re not selling them anything; we’re just providing intermediate access to care.”
“Our basic cleaning appointments average about an hour,” Helland said. “Deep cleaning takes longer.”
When a problem is suspected, Jackson and Helland refer patients to dentists in Woodland Park or in Colorado Springs, depending on where the patient lives.
Patients pay Summit directly as the practice doesn’t take insurance.
“Patients make their payments first, but we can help them fill out forms for insurance reimbursements,” Helland said. “We take adults and children and focus not just on care, but also patient education.”
Jackson added that education is key as “Oral health is connected to the rest of the body.”
Check out summitdentalhygiene.com for more information. To make an appointment, call 719-285-7154.
Air Force veteran Gina Mischlich owns Smile Heart Dental Hygiene, 835 E. Platte Ave., Colorado Springs.
“Air Force (dental) training is diverse,” she said. “We know how to check for things. I feel really confident going out on my own.”
With that training behind her, Mischlich went to dental hygiene school in 2005.
“I do everything regular hygienists do — deep cleanings, sealants, X-rays,” she said. “I also make bacterial tests for periodontal (gum) disease and Human Papilloma Virus, which causes a lot of oral cancers. I always check for signs of cancer. That’s one of the reasons I like to take more time with patients.”
Mischlich said she will stop taking new patients if she ever gets too busy to spend time with them.
Smile Heart takes adults and children and many patients come in on personal referrals. If Mischlich detects a problem, she refers patients to dentists with whom she often works.
For more information, visit smileheartdental.com. To make an appointment, call 719-755-0155.
Lori Kinzer owns Serene Dental Hygiene, 5170 N. Union, Suite 104, Colorado Springs.
“A lot of people think Serene is my name,” she said. “It’s really an adjective. I offer quiet, calm, peaceful care. Because of COVID-19 I make sure there is no patient crossover. Each patient gets one and a half hour, with 30 minutes between patients.”
It isn’t just her patients who appreciate the calm environment. Kinzer is deaf and has cochlear implants.
“I’m very sensitive to noise,” she said. “I limit distractions, which is good for people with autism and others with noise issues. I also like to spend time talking to people.”
Even the office décor lends to that peaceful feeling.
“It’s very homey,” Kinzer said. “When people come in and see the office, I see the anxiety fall off their shoulders.”
Convenience is also part of her services. For instance, she offers Saturday appointments and answers texts, which she prefers, seven days a week.
Unlike most independent dental hygienists, Kinzer accepts most dental insurance but also offers cash specials.
For more information, check out Kinzer’s website, serenedentalhygiene.com. Call or text 719-290-9804 for an appointment.
Candice Kusterle owns Teeth, which has a motto: “Inspiring Essential Wellness through Dental Hygiene.” She rents space in Kinzer’s office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I have a passion for helping people with their health,” she said, adding that she uses laser technology, which Kinzer doesn’t offer. “I still offer simple, quiet comfort but I also do a lot of education. The mouth is the window to the body.”
Kusterle illustrated that systemic connection with a startling statistic. “There are more than 900 different kinds of bacteria in the mouth,” she said. “These are linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer — everything is connected. I want to make sure we stay healthy with the right kind of fuel and care.”
She encourages her patients to eat naturally-sourced foods that are preservative free.
“To be an independent dental hygienist in Colorado you must be able to think outside the box,” Kusterle said. “I focus on the whole body — spirit, mind, fuel, everything — to be healthy and energetic. It’s a mindset.”
Kusterle’s website is teethcos.com. For appointments, call 719-510-6918.