Well...we made it through 2020, and here we are. I'd like to share an interview I did for the Hygiene Edge blog. You may find it interesting.
Have you ever wanted to invent something? Have an amazing idea that would help with dental hygienists each day in their practice, or people in their every day lives? Our friend Kathy had an idea to help RDHs each day by keeping them safe with aerosol reduction but makes it easy. And at a time like this, isn’t this the #1 question we have right now?! Using the High Volume Suction is nearly impossible without an assistant, so why not invest in your own assistant with the Dental Flex Arm?
We asked Kathy a few questions about her inventor journey, and her advice to other dental hygienists would love to start down the path of product development. Read her interview below to get to know her a little bit better.
What has been your favorite part of being in the dental field?
My favorite part of being in the dental field is all the wonderful people I have gotten to know. I was in private practice for over 25 years, and I loved getting to know my patients. I have also been involved in serving in my professional organization for many years, and I have met some amazing dental hygienists. Now, as I am in education, I continue to meet many awesome educators and students.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business? What's been the trickiest?
Our business is still very young, but I am rewarded by knowing that I am helping the dental community by making life easier and safer for them. I will honestly say that I could not have started this business without my partner (who also happens to be my brother). He has run a medical manufacturing business for years, so he knew all the “ins and outs” of business licenses, EIN’s, accounting, etc. He is so knowledgeable about these things, so my recommendation for others wanting to start a business is to get a good partner, who knows the ropes of small business. I feel this is the trickiest part of any business. Creating a website was a learning curve that I’m still working on. Marketing is a challenge in today’s “social marketing” world. One of the challenges is getting the word out about our product. Someone can create the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, it’s not worth much.
What inspired you to create the Dental Flex Arm?
I teach dental hygiene at Utah Valley University, and as a dental hygiene program we had determined that our students would use the HVE when they were using the Ultrasonic. How this was going to happen was the problem. Learning to use the Ultrasonic is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but using it while holding the HVE is almost impossible for both beginners and experienced hygienists. The head of the UVU dental hygiene program, Dianne Knight, said to me one day, “You need to invent something to hold the HVE that we can use here at UVU”. That began my quest to create something that would hold the HVE and make life easier for our students. There are other similar products on the market, so I looked at those and knew I could create something better and less expensive. My goal was to produce the best product that was affordable so if a dental hygienist wanted to purchase it for him/herself they could take if from office to office. Many of the products on the market currently are prohibitively expensive, and the ongoing cost is also high (for disposables). One dental school clinical instructor rightly said to me, “This product can pay for itself in a day.” He was considering the cost of hiring an assistant to suction as well as the high cost for some of the disposables on the market today.
We went through a lot of prototypes before we got to the product we have today. Again, this is where my business partner, Steve, was invaluable. He knew how to source the best products. In fact, we knew we wanted to source our supplies in the USA, so Steve made a trip to Connecticut to visit one of the few gooseneck manufacturers in the United States, and we will be using them to help produce a part of the product to our specifications. I believe that as we help other business in the United States, it helps all of us.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business or invent their own dental product?
Look for a need. That is what started me down this path to create the Dental Flex Arm. There was a need- and not just because of COVID. (Please remember dental professionals that HVE should be used with ALL aerosol producing procedures. COVID will soon be a thing of the past, but we still need to use the HVE.)
Find a partner who has the business “know how” to help you, because there is a LOT of paperwork involved.
Network to get the word out about your product. The more people who know about it, the more people you can help.
Do it for the right reasons. I’m not here to get rich (although that would be a nice thing). I wanted to do this to make life easier for hygienists, but I also see a place for assistants to use it, as well as every dental school in the nation.
Try not to go into debt to do it. This is just my own personal thought. The process might be a little slower, but it is nice to not have extra debt to worry about.
Thank you Kathy for sharing your knowledge experiences with us! It has been so fun for us to watch you develop this amazing product for dental hygienists by a dental hygienist. We’ve been using the Dental Flex arm for the last few months, and it has been so handy to hold the high volume suction for aerosol reduction. To learn more about the Dental Flex Arm, find out all about it at their website or on Facebook.