My Grandma Louise

In Dental Hygeine, Diagnostics, Education, Health, Inspiration, Motivating Women by Nicole Ortega

Family has always been a big part of who I am, and what I’m about. My Grandma Louise meant the world to me. Growing up we spend countless day and nights with her, in her kitchen; laughing, dancing and eating pasta . . . lots of pasta! In my early 20’s (while finishing Hygiene pre-requisites) I started helping her with daily life as she started becoming “forgetful” and needing assistance. I would bathe her, do some of the housework, take her to the grocery store and all doctor appointments. Our bond blossomed and flourished during these times together. One day I got the call, on my old Nokia cell phone; she fell and broke her hip. She never returned home, nor did she walk ever again. This broke her, and a part of me. My Grandma never drove, she walked everywhere. She loved walking, and she loved her home. For those things to be suddenly ripped away, was devastating. Being facility bound, looking at the same 4 walls; day in and day out, she became weak. Alzheimer’s and Dementia progressed, until she was in the depths of the disease and could no longer speak. This was a big blow! For her, and again me. My heart still hurts for her. I would spend time with her and simply look into her eyes, as we held hands in silence. I always felt like she knew who I was, that never changed. The feelings after every visit never changed either. I always left in tears, rattled with sadness and a sense of defeat.

Despite the emotional battle, I never stopped visiting my Grandma. In August 2008 I moved away for Dental Hygiene School. Learning more about the oral systemic connection, patient assessment and so much more, it prompted me to look inside my Grandmas mouth and do more. During our visits I would try to complete an extra oral exam, oral cancer screening, check her tongue, tissues and feel her overall body for lumps or bumps. I would find suspicious lesion and apparent abscesses. This prompted letters to her Power of Attorney; and after some time she (and her wheel chair) would be transported to a dental office only to return with a few less teeth.

I sought out the Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP) program in California, intrigued by the autonomy and endless possibilities. August 19, 2015 I passed the Law and Ethics exam, which was the final step to officially move forward and open my own Dental Hygiene practice. The process to start seeing patients was laborious, intense and challenging. This never detoured me, in fact it lead to another great opportunity.

Grandma Louise died September 2, 2015 with only her two front teeth. I still miss her. Living through my Grandma’s journey, one full of neglect on many levels impacted my life significantly. After her passing I officially opened my own Mobile Dental Hygiene practice and started seeing patients. I have since found my niche in memory care; where I spend most of my time with a toothbrush, checking for broken teeth and infections. I am now able to advocate and care for others the way I cared for my Grandma Louise.

I am very passionate about bringing a 21st century approach to elevate access to care. I believe the RDHAP has a place in every hospital, facility, school and home. It is our ethical responsibility as healthcare providers to meet the needs of our communities, further the nation as a whole. Doing my due diligence, I leveled up and self-published Starting Simple in 2017. I am on the Second Edition of this book, which helps others open their own Mobile Dental Hygiene business and build the practice of their dreams. My book directly impacts access to care and is helping build an army of mobile providers. Seeing the need first hand, I know we need others like myself to do the work. I love that I am doing my part to make this world a better place.

Using my platform as a RDHAP I launched a podcast called Teeth and Tea, where my cohost (a fellow RDHAP) and myself spill the Tea on all things Dental, highlighting the RDHAP and mobile care. I use both, book and podcast to build awareness and influence the mobile movement. I created an accessory brand called lovely32 ( for dental and healthcare professionals to spread smiles and showcase our professional pride. I am currently finalizing artwork for my new innovative children’s tooth brushing book that I wrote 8 years ago. I will continue to work diligently helping others and advancing our profession, simply because it’s the right thing to do.