Dental Hygienist Spotlight with Amanda Trenerry — Hygiene Edge

In Australia, most high schools provide the opportunity to do “work experience”. This is as it sounds, you volunteer a week of your time to work at a place that interests you and see if it still appeals after you have spent some time there.

I had thought I wanted to be a Physical Education (PE) teacher working with special needs children. My sister had special needs and I loved the community that surrounded her. I also loved PE, so thought about combining the two and becoming a PE teacher for kids with special needs.

As part of this process, I had one week of work experience in a special needs school (loved it), and then the second was at my old primary school with a PE teacher. Unfortunately the PE teacher was unwell that week so as a backup they put me in the onsite dental clinic .

Despite the randomness of that, I really enjoyed it so did further work experience in a private dental practice. After 2 weeks there I was offered a dental assistant position. My boss became one of my greatest mentors. He encouraged travel and self-improvement. After a couple of years in this practice, I decided to follow his advice and worked /backpacked overseas for 2 years. When I returned home I decided to study again so applied for Dental Hygiene.

Favorite part of dental hygiene/being a dental hygienist:

Ultimately, it would be the relationships and trust I built with my patients and colleagues. I also really enjoyed the variety and autonomy.

As a veteran of over 30 years now, I have been fortunate to have worked in a variety of different specialties in both the Private and Public sectors. I was part of a team in the High Caries Unit at Adelaide Dental Hospital, I have worked in Prosthodontics, general practice and been a clinical tutor and presenter for both BOH & Dental Hygiene. While I enjoyed the variety, I really found my niche in Orthodontics and it’s here that led me on a quest to find a better mouthguard for our patients.

I suppose I could wrap that up by saying being a DH helped me discover my true calling!

What are you up to now?

I am the founder of the Neomorph Mouthguard – a triple-layered re-mouldable alternative to the dental-made mouthguard. Neomorph was designed to provide a similar custom fit, comfort and protection to that of the dental-made mouthguard yet with the convenience, price-point and mouldability of the over-the-counter “boil & bite”.

What inspired you to start something new and how did you start that?

Ultimately, it was the regular complaints I would hear from my patients about their mouth guards. I had always had a fundamental belief that we could improve moldable mouth guards and could never really understand why we hadn’t quite got there.

I tried to educate myself as much as possible on them, I read loads of research papers, papers on alternate materials, impact and other testing, standards, regulations and guidelines. I physically trialled a variety of professionally made mouthguards and every moldable mouthguard that I could find. I also did the fabricating mouthguards unit of the dental technicians’ course. I gathered a “pros & cons” list for my ultimate mouthguard and then formulated a design.

Once I had a basic proof of concept (made in my kitchen), it became apparent that I would need to invest in formal research and prototyping.

Through a fortuitous discussion (at a funeral), I was introduced to the Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) at Flinders University in South Australia. The MDPP is an ideas incubator that offers 250 hours of grant assisted technical support with access to any speciality I needed, primarily researchers, polymer specialists, scientists, engineers and industry collaborators. This was a game-changer for me. The support I received through MDPP confirmed that the Neomorph Mouthguard could be the solution we were looking for and was worth pursuing. With that knowledge, I applied and received an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant through the Entrepreneurs Program (a co-contributor grant) to help further research, develop, and test Neomorph to ensure it performed as intended and was able to be manufactured on a commercial scale.

After 3+ years, many mistakes, failed trials and frustrations, we have now successfully realized our goal.

What would you want to tell a dental hygienist who is interested in starting their own company?

If you have a passion for something, follow it and see where it takes you. It doesn’t always mean that you need to heavily invest financially, but sometimes it does. If it does, look into what options are available to help you (there may be grants available) and more importantly grants often come with a mentor. Either way it will require dedication and perseverance. Speak to people that have inspired you as most of them will love your passion and be keen to help.

What I know about our profession is that we generally have a passion to do good things and the camaraderie that is forged from that can help you in amazing ways.

We all have a background of baggage which can hold us back, but just know that:

–        You will never have all the answers but there are people that can help you with that

–        There is no such thing as a stupid question – you don’t know what you don’t know…so ask away.

–        You are only alone if you choose to be, there is often a mentor/helping hand closer than you think.

–        Your family loves you and in most cases will have great intentions, but they will also want to protect you so they may not be your most supportive network.

–        When you feel like everything is piling up, remember this phrase  “How do you eat an elephant……one bite at a time!” (P.S it’s actually not OK to eat elephants!)

–        There will always be “naysayers”. If you believe that what you’re doing has merit and is for the right reasons, then just accept that anything that has magnitude may attract “naysayers”. Listen, use whatever may be valuable to you, then file it wherever it belongs. This could be in a drawer or the bin. Don’t let it consume you – there is way too much to do!


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