Sometimes people find themselves in the right place at the right time.
But as the saying goes, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and Jennifer Geiselhofer, a registered dental hygienist based in the greater Denver, Colorado area, considers herself lucky.
Jennifer Geiselhofer, RDH – founder of Deserving Dental.
Upon chatting with her, I found more fitting descriptions for her than simply “lucky,” would be: “smart,” “enthusiastic,” and “caring.” She is the type of person whose passion for helping people burns so bright that she likely views any obstacle she meets as an opportunity to help.
But she wasn’t always like that.
Back in 2009, Jennifer spent her days working a typical hygienist’s schedule, growing increasingly restless with her daily routine that day by day left her feeling bored and uninspired.
But here’s where the whole right time, right place, preparation meets opportunity and luck stuff comes in.
Jennifer making a house call for a Deserving Dental patient.
One day, a local charity sent out a call for volunteer hygienists to help out at a big dental humanitarian event and Jennifer jumped at the chance for a change of pace… and a day outside the office.
As dramatic as it may sound, Jennifer says, “The day of that event, I walked into a gym full of make-shift dental chairs and stations and walked out forever changed.”
She adds, “After that ONE day, I was flying high on cloud nine. It just felt so amazing to use my skills to serve the kinds of people whose current life situations wouldn’t otherwise allow them to access dental care, exams, and cleanings.”
A couple weeks later, a regular patient in the practice where she worked mentioned during her cleaning that her husband suffered from Alzheimer’s, was home and bed-bound, and desperately needed his teeth cleaned.
Jennifer caring for an elderly Deserving Dental patient at a pop-up clinic.
Jennifer listened. She’d never heard of anyone making house calls to clean teeth, but she viewed this challenge as an opportunity to help.
“I marched right into the dentist’s personal office that I worked for and asked him if I could go help this gentleman—promising to take my own tools and equipment, and to handle the billing myself.”
Luckily, she says, “He agreed, and even encouraged me to go for it.”
Little did Jennifer know at the time, Colorado is one of the only states in the country allowing registered dental hygienists to own their own practice.
Right place, right time.
Jennifer made that house call and said, “Amidst all the machines and medical equipment—but mostly, despite my intense intimidation—I cleaned and scaled his teeth. [ . . . ] His wife thanked me profusely with tears in her eyes on my way out, and I can truly say that it was that moment that solidified my calling, especially after what I had felt a couple of weeks earlier at the humanitarian event where I volunteered. When I left that house call that day, I knew I had to find a way to do this kind of work full-time.”
Deserving Dental take pride in their unique ability to serve patients in their own homes.
Jennifer immediately began temping all over the Denver area instead of working regular hours at her previous office in order to give her the flexibility and diverse experience to start her own practice, which she proudly opened and named “Dental at Your Door,” in 2015.
Dental at Your Door quickly gained exclusive contracts with most of the major homeless and women’s shelters, as well as major charitable organizations aimed at helping underserved populations around Colorado.
“We’d visit shelters, set up pop-up clinics to help veterans, set up shop in nursing homes, and we’d also make private house calls in those first couple of years, billing almost everything to Medicaid.”
“But a couple of years into it, I realized that even at the shelters we were visiting, there were a lot of people that weren’t coming to take advantage of our services. [ . . . ] I figured out that it was because they didn’t have Medicaid and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from getting them the care they needed.”
Another challenge, another opportunity to help.
Jennifer jumped on establishing her own charity, and in 2019, she opened Deserving Dental—a 501c3 non-profit organization aimed at providing dental cleaning, exams, and care to underserved populations that don’t have access to Medicaid.
“Deserving Dental and Dental at Your Door work hand-in-hand, visiting the same shelters and organizations throughout the state. But now, we don’t have to refuse care to anyone due to a lack of financial means,” she explains. “If they need the care but don’t have the funds, we’ve got them.”
Jennifer giving a dental checkup to a child at one of Deserving Dental’s pop-up clinics.
She calls starting Deserving Dental a “win/win,” for her staff and their patients. “We’re all lucky.”
“Recently,” she recalls, “We had a man come to one of our pop-up clinics for a cleaning. He had a long beard and mustache that completely covered the lower half of his face, mouth, and lips, even when he spoke.”
Jennifer shares a smile and gives a check-up and cleaning to a Deserving Dental patient.
She continues, “When we took a look at his teeth, we determined he would need what we call a ‘two-step,’ or ‘two-appointment’ cleaning—one for intense debridement, and then a follow-up for fine-scaling and polishing, because he hadn’t had a cleaning in so long.”
After that first appointment, Jennifer remembers feeling hopeful, but doubtful that they’d see him for his follow-up appointment, which unfortunately, is often her experience.
“But,” she says, “to our surprise, two weeks later, a man walked in for what he said was his follow-up appointment, but none of us recognized him. When he told us his name, we couldn’t believe we were looking at the same guy.”
Jennifer shares a warm hug with a Deserving Dental patient.
“He said that after his first cleaning with us, he went home, and shaved his entire mustache and beard. For years, he felt so embarrassed and ashamed of his teeth that he kept his facial hair long to strategically hide his smile.”
Jennifer says seeing that man stand a little taller and a little prouder that day is what keeps her going.
It’s what gives her the energy to continually turn challenges into opportunities to help.
“There just really aren’t many things in this world more fulfilling than that.”
Ultradent proudly donates many of the dental products Deserving Dental uses to help their patients. If you have an opportunity you would like to be considered for sponsorship, email email@example.com.
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