Serving with Passion
Carol Newton, RDH has been instrumental in improving the oral health of youths in Western Central Wisconsin for 8 years.
As founder, president, and CEO of Professional Dental Hygiene Express Inc (Bright Smiles) has touched the lives of more than 15,000 youth since the program’s start in January 2011. This year, she will be working on expanding in helping adults and elderly with their oral health.
Bright Smiles is a nonprofit organization focusing on the oral health of children and under-served adults. We provide oral screenings, dental sealants, tooth cleaning, and fluoride varnish that are provided by experienced registered dental hygienists. Providing education is a huge part of what we do. Our goal is to reduce caries and promote healthy mouth and body!
I first became licensed as a Registered Dental Hygienist in 1996 after earning my associate degree. For the first 12 years I did as most hygienist do. I worked in a dental office. I worked for many dentists throughout my years, not because I jumped around a lot but because for 2 years I filled in as a temp which keep me full time and this allowed me to really grow and see how different each office really is. I developed confidence in how I wanted to treat my patients. Than I started working with Dr James Lane DDS. He was a great dentist, (now retired) both to his employees and his patients. I loved working there and I loved working with my patients and being a dental hygienist, but I had a family issue that came up and I had to quit my job and go home. When I was ready to go back to work I already knew I would not get back in with Dr Lane and the jobs were scares. I had to take a different job other than dental hygiene to make sure our family had insurance due to the fact my husbands job was unsure at the time due to the fall of the economy. This really made me think what can I do with my career? Where am I going? I really loved doing hygiene and taking care of my patients but what can I do?
Luckily, another hygienist saw that I could do more and lead me to my first mentor, Linda Bohacek MA, CDHC, RDH, FAADH. She was president of the ADHA at one time and she has been running the Eau Claire Wisconsin Seal-A-Smile program along with more community oral health programs in Eau Claire, WI. Linda told me about her program and I fell in love with it. I helped her out to learn more and went to counties in my area to start my own program, but the counties did not want to start their own program at that time. Linda told me I could do this on my own and she would help mentor me and help me write my first grant to get started. I took the leap of faith and have never wrote a grant before. Well, it took me about a month to write the grant while I was working full time, taking care of 3 children, a house, and my husband who was on the road. As soon as I got the grant I quit my job and I got started and had my first 5 schools and saw 187 children in my first year. I named the business Professional Dental Hygiene Express Inc. In 2013 I turned it into a nonprofit. I never thought I would have grown this into what it is today. I started out just helping children in my community and it became a lot more than that. I am now on my 8th year and have 28 schools, in 9 school districts, and in 4 counties. We saw about 2700 children for oral care and educate about 4000 children this year (2018) and taught them on how to take better care of their mouth.
I have been very lucky my husband had a good job because I was barely making any income and still volunteer a lot of my time. The grant covered the supplies but very little income for me. But I knew this is such a good program I had to keep doing this. So, I just kept plugging away on this and somehow made it work every year.
I am working at changing the name to Bright Smiles and I have now grown to where I have 4 employees and some volunteers. I finally have gotten to where I can step back and take the time to grow and see how I can make this bigger and help more. Also, learning how to get out there and looking for supporters to keep this wonderful program going. I have never thought it would grow to what it is now. I was thinking when I started I was just helping my community but as I grew and saw even more how important this is I decided to become nonprofit and continuing to look to expand and grow to help my communities. It has been a long hard road and I have grown so much and continue growing by every new person I meet. I have become a business owner. Never have I thought that would happen. This lead me to learn I had a lot of growing to do in business and the nonprofit world. I have taken as many classes and learning experiences as I can handle. I keep learning something new every day. I am glad I was lead down this road.
I have also been involved in changing the dental hygiene law in Wisconsin, so we can do more for our communities. Another new experience that I never thought I would do. These 8 years have not been easy but well worth it. We, as dental hygienist can change the world. We do not just have to work in a traditional, dental office. We have many choices now. More than I ever had when I graduated in 1996. I have been learning so much and seeing other dental hygienist doing the same and getting out there and helping their communities. I am blown away by how many opportunities there are for dental hygienist and how many are leading the way to better oral health by not sticking to the tradition way of hygiene. I have found out how important it is to be involved with others in our profession and I want to be involved with ones who share the same goals as I do and want to make a difference in their world and the worlds of others.
Thank you for reading my story,
Carol Newton, RDH, Founder