A Natural Born DeWer

In Inspiration, Success by Judy Bendit

My tagline is “born and raised in a dental office”. Having a dad who is a dentist and mom who is a hygienist, I truly spent all my time in the profession. I think it was cheaper for them to have me in the office as a little kid rather than pay for a babysitter! I assisted in my dads office for many years, worked as a dental assistant all through high school and then made the decision to go to dental hygiene school. I think ultimately my dad thought I would continue on to dental school but I took a different path!

After completing my certificate in dental hygiene from The University of Pennsylvania school of dental medicine, I went to New York university for a bachelors in dental hygiene education. It was great having a license in dental hygiene while attending school so that while everyone else was making a few dollars, minimum-wage, I was making a lot of money by New York City standards. After completing my bachelors I went back to Philadelphia where I worked in a very prestigious Perio-prosthodontic office during the week and worked for my dad on the weekends. The differences between these 2 practices were night and day. My dad bought me anything I asked for! My other office, not so much. This was in the early 80’s when HIV was just showing its face to the world. I wanted to wear gloves and my boss would not buy them for me. I fought hard. His comment one day was “I know my patients and you don’t need to wear gloves”. My response was “but you don’t know who they were sleeping with”. This office taught me how to stand up for the things I feel are important. It was a few years later when gloves became a stand of care.

When I speak to clinicians now who share their frustrations regarding their employers, I get it. At night, I was working on my masters, but I never finished that. Three years later, while attending the Chicago midwinter dental meeting, I was introduced to a brand-new company in the dental industry called Interplak. I was very skeptical of the product but agreed to try it in my office on six patients. Doing your own mini clinical trial is something I encourage every clinician to do today when introduced to new products. To my surprise, I fell in love with it and went to work as their first full-time sales representative. Sales were very different than dental hygiene. It was not a 9-5 job. It became more of a 12-15 hour day plotting my days to different dental offices around my territory. I really developed a thick skin from this job. Cold calling on dental offices is not for the fane of heart. Not getting past the receptionist was a daily challenge. I figured everyone would want to talk to ME and learn about my amazing product! I was wrong. Or if they did, they forgot to tell the gate- keeper at the front desk!

That opportunity over two years gave me the experience I needed for Hu-Friedy to take a chance and hire me. In looking back now, my biggest obstacle was being a female in the late 80s, being married to a physician, and not being given the same financial opportunities as some of the men in the industry. It was a constant struggle to make the money I thought I should have made. Over the course of 10 years I traveled all over the country working as a regional account manager attending conventions, speaking at hygiene schools and dental schools and working with Dental dealers. We had a full-time nanny at home for my 2 boys that I called my “wife”. I could not have done it without her. I would leave some mornings at the crack of dawn and return late at night just in time to say good night. It was difficult sometimes missing special moments when the kids were young, but like others, I made the decision to do it. I was juggling a full-time job and raising two young boys and after 10 years, the company wanted me to be traveling 75% of the time. That was my tipping point. I loved my job, but I couldn’t be away from home that much.

I made the decision to transfer into a different type of position with Hu-Friedy so I could be more involved with my kids and their activities. I transitioned into a consulting role as an educator. That role has turned out to be my most exciting and rewarding position so far. For the past 18 years, I have traveled around North America speaking at the national and state Dental and dental hygiene meetings. To date, there are only three states that I have not spoken in. I average 30 to 50 programs a year. When I first started speaking my signature classes were over-the-shoulder small group workshops and over the course of the last eight years I have expanded my repertoire to about 10 different types of workshops and lectures. In addition to speaking, I take 2 to 3 mission trips a year with dental students, medical students and medical foundations. I am on faculty at Temple Kornberg School of dental medicine, an alumni member of the University of Pennsylvania school of dental medicine, and an advisory board member at Palm Beach State College. My two sons have officially left the house and my husband and I are empty-nesters loving life and residing in paradise in Delray Beach Florida.