A Hygienist’s Dream To Build Her Own Studio Becomes A Reality

In Building a Practice, Dental Hygeine, She's an Entrepreneur by Sarah Schoeneck

Irene Iancu had a clear vision from the start—to build her own hygienist-run dental practice with a strong voice on social media. With the help of her Patterson Reps and Equipment specialist, they spent months planning and mapping out how this space would come to life. With the opening date set for early 2020, Irene was on the brink of seeing her dream become reality.

“The aesthetics of the office turned out better than I imagined,” said Irene. “My hand touched every piece of this practice from the waiting area, to the color of the paint. I took time to learn about even the littlest of things like lighting plans, plumbing and what makes a dental start-up successful. I’m putting an emphasis on supporting local business’s in the Toronto area with handing out gift cards to my new patients for the coffee shop across the street. My advice to anyone opening their own business: Be as involved as you possibly can be.”

Irene - Toothlife StudioThe pieces of the puzzle were coming together including installing state of the art equipment—a priority Irene would not cut corners on. Patterson worked with Dentsply Sirona to get the chairs Irene wanted and installed. She also became the first office in Canada to own a KaVo NOMAD™.

“The NOMAD™ is a relatively new piece of equipment and my Patterson Equipment Specialist worked really hard to get it for me. Since it’s so new, Rui put together a plan so that I would be a guinea pig for the product to get it approved for my office. I am thrilled to be able to add this for my patients.”

As the studio was getting ready to open in March, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and halted the grand opening. The studio was only allowed to perform emergencies for the time being.

“We donated all of our PPE to the front-line workers and took this time to pivot on our protocols—such as going paperless and moving to all digital,” explained Irene.

The official opening date ended up being in June, and Irene’s studio acquired 220 new patients in six weeks. A huge accomplishment.

Toothlife StudioToothLife Studio currently performs traditional dental patient care while also offering unique services to the dental community such as being a photoshoot destination for products and lifestyle shoots. Future uses will include hands-on courses for hygienists and aesthetic education for doctors.

This vision that Irene has pieced together over the years has required a lot of management.

“You don’t know how much stuff you will need till you are actually open,” recalls Irene. “All these small things you use every day that I didn’t even think of, like cotton applicators, I need those items to keep the practice running.”

That is why she depends on her Patterson rep, Brett Clair, to help with all her orders. Many that are last minute.

“I ordered a dental dam that was on backorder and it caused a huge problem because we cannot do restorative work without it,” recalls Irene. “Brett was able to get one from a friend and he hand-delivered it to me on his way to taking his son to hockey practice—which was two hours out of the way. If it wasn’t for him, we would have had to cancel on our patients for that day.”

Her equipment specialist, Rui Ferreira, also stepped up in big ways during those first few weeks of being open.

“We had a computer glitch and I couldn’t open the X-rays. I called Rui (who was on holiday) and he came in the next day to fix the system. He just didn’t pawn it off on customer service, he cared enough to show up. I’m always in awe of Patterson’s professional character across the board.”

Even with the uncertainty of opening in the middle of a pandemic and the common critiques she hears of having a hygienist-run practice, Irene did not let the fear of failure be a driver. Her future goals are focused in the moment and on the day-to-day of running her practice. She wants her patients to leave with having felt an experience of kindness, professionalism and with the cleanest-feeling teeth they have ever felt (thanks to digital technology and her Dentsply Sirona ProphyJet!).

Things seem to be on track with those goals as reviews on her site are glowing. A few examples are, “My teeth have NEVER felt this clean,” “Facility is new with top-of-the-line equipment, a modern atmosphere,” and “I actually enjoy going to the Dentist now—Irene is friendly, hospitable and extremely educated on dental hygiene and overall health.”

When you enter and leave the ToothLife Studio, you can’t help but notice an extraordinary drawing of Irene as a superhero on the wall.

“You never really see yourself the way other people see you. That drawing was made by one of my students who somehow saw me as a dental superhero. It is such a compliment. I keep mentioning what I’ve learned through this experience because the learning never stops. I’ve learned that leading with kindness and telling people how thankful you are for the work they do is important. I continually tell the Patterson team how thankful I am for them and for making themselves available even when they’re not. I’m stronger than I think I am and that’s all because of my Patterson team. I couldn’t have done any of this without them. I’m forever grateful for their passion, guidance and mentorship during such a monumental time in my professional life.”