Creating a dental connection
After more than 20 years in private practice, alumna Amanda Friesen is bringing dental hygiene services to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Amanda Friesen (Dental Hygiene 2000) got braces when she was 10 years old. Unlike many children, she remembers it as a happy occasion. “I wasn’t the least bit scared,” she says, “I was intrigued and excited. It sparked my interest in dentistry and also my early ambition to be an orthodontist.”
By the time she finished high school, Amanda had other priorities. While still interested in a career in dentistry, she weighed moving from Regina to Saskatoon to pursue a university degree or staying at home and taking the Dental Hygiene program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
“I chose Dental Hygiene because I was planning a future with my high school sweetheart,” Amanda says. “I loved everything about the program. My favourite memories are of the instructors. They were kind and caring, and you always knew they wanted you to succeed. I still feel a lot of gratitude for my instructors—several are good friends to this day.”
Sask Polytech programs have always been known for packing a lot of learning into a compact timeframe. Amanda took up to 13 courses per term. Her dedication was rewarded when she got a job in her field immediately after graduation. After passing her national board examination, she joined the Normanview Dental Clinic as a registered dental hygienist. She spent close to 18 years with the clinic before moving to a part-time position at Lakewood Dental Clinic.
“I moved to part-time so I could start my own mobile dental hygiene business, The Dental Connection. I travel to long-term care facilities, seniors’ residences and remote locations to assist those who don’t have easy access to dental care,” Amanda says.
Dental professions in Saskatchewan are governed by the Dental Disciplines Act. The act was amended in 2021 to allow dental hygienists, dental therapists and dental assistants to practice independently within their scope of practice. While this is what Amanda is doing with The Dental Connection, she says collaborating with dentists is essential to develop the best course of treatment for people’s oral health needs.
“A huge mentor in my life who enabled me to start my business is Dr. Mackenzie Buchan-Watson at Lakewood Dental Clinic. Without collaborating with her, my business would not have been possible as an independent provider. Networking and partnerships are so very important,” Amanda says.
“I’m passionate about helping others, but I’ve got a soft spot for seniors,” she adds. “I think it goes back to my grandpa—I had a wonderful grandpa. He played with me as a child and let me do things with his teeth when I was pretending to be a dentist.”
In recent years, Amanda’s own experience suffering from migraines and temporomandibular disorder led her to study orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT). It involves the assessment of physical structures in the mouth and nose area and their relation to issues with speech, sleep, dental and jaw development, swallowing and breathing. OMT treatment uses a series of target-specific exercises to retrain the muscles of the face and tongue.
Amanda currently has provider status in OMT and is working toward international certification. She credits her formative experience at Sask Polytech with helping her develop the skills and attitude needed to continue expanding her career through lifelong learning.
“I’ve also been lucky enough to work with people who have mentored and encouraged me to explore new areas. I’m confident with where I am in my career right now—I’m comfortable and content,” she says. “I’m not working towards the future I want any more; I’m here.”
Learn more about Sask Polytech’s Dental Hygiene program.