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Episode #450: The Geriatric Toothfairy, with Sonya Dunbar

the best practices show podcast Jul 25, 2022


Some of our seniors become invisible. And that means they are not well-cared-for — especially when it comes to oral health. But there are ways that dentists can help, and Kirk Behrendt brings in Sonya Dunbar, speaker, educator, and CEO of The Geriatric Tooth Fairy, to share how mobile dentistry can save our seniors. Let's take care of our greatest generation! For the best advice from the tooth fairy, listen to Episode 450 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

Long-term care patients have a great need for oral care.

Mobile dentistry is for everyone, not just the underserved.

You can diversify your financial portfolio with mobile dentistry.

Teledentistry and mobile dentistry are great ways to branch out.

Spread smiles, love, and respect for seniors who come into your office.


“My grandmother had an upper denture and lower teeth, and I noticed that the CNAs in the nursing home weren't even taking out her denture — let alone brushing her teeth. So, of course, I didn't care because I was there every morning and every night, so I did it. But one day, when I was in her room, her roommate said, ‘Sweetie, can you brush my teeth? They don't come out like your grandmother’s.’ So, I said, ‘Of course!’ So, I went over to her bed and started looking through the drawers, and I didn't see a toothbrush. I went to the bathroom. There wasn't a toothbrush. I went to the nurse’s station. There wasn't a toothbrush in the building.” (3:24—3:57)

“A lot of home health care companies called me for me to train their home health aides on how to properly take care of the teeth. And one thing I noticed, I could train them all how to brush teeth and how to deal with a dementia patient. But they need to know the diseases and sicknesses connected to oral care. I connect the mouth to the body. But so many non-dental people separate the mouth from overall health. So, I draw a real good picture about diabetes, heart disease, even urinary tract infections — so many things that are connected. There are over 200 known diseases and sicknesses connected to the mouth.” (7:48—8:26)

“Some people think that mobile dentistry is just for the underserved. But no, it’s not. Mobile dentistry is for everyone.” (13:37—13:42)

“I encourage [dentists] to extend an arm outside of their practice with teledentistry and mobile dentistry. Maybe send your hygienists out to people that may be in a nursing home or to the school. Give them the teledentistry camera and let them do the exams. The dentists could do the exams. The hygienists could do the cleaning. And that frees up a chair in your office.”  (14:24—14:45)

“I think [dentists] least understand how to get started. People don't understand that there are steps in getting started. Just like there are steps in starting a brick-and-mortar practice, there are steps in getting started in mobile [dentistry].” (15:21—15:39)

“I met a young dentist out of California. She has the van, and she goes to stay-at-home moms. And she’ll get a whole zip code. And she targeted that, splashed it out with marketing. Those mothers are calling her. She has a waiting list in certain zip codes. And if it’s a mother and father and two or three kids, and you do all those exams and cleanings and whatever they need, and then go to another, you've made your production and you're staying in the area. Everybody knows gas is outrageous right now. But just staying in that same area, you're driving around, but you're bringing it to them.” (16:44—17:25)

“[Another dentist] does mobile ortho. He does mobile ortho and Invisalign. He goes to a space, texts all these people, tells them when they're going to be there. They line up and come to him. And he has a big bus. He has an old school bus. Can you tell me the overhead that this dentist is not paying?” (17:37—17:56)

“If someone wants to diversify their financial portfolio as a dental professional, they should really think about mobile dentistry.” (19:02—19:12)

“I don't want people to think that mobile dentistry is only in a van. There's pop-up mobile dentistry — there are so many different types of mobile dentistry that people do, and it’s an amazing opportunity.” (20:06—20:17)

“I can't do great things. But I can do a lot of small things, great.” (20:48—20:55)

“A lot of people feel, as we age, we fade. And during the pandemic, I was talking about going into the nursing homes and taking care of people’s teeth. And I got emails back and people texting me — and I knew they had to be younger people — saying, ‘Why do you even care about the dying?’ People just don't see seniors. They don't see older people. And that's a sad thing.” (28:58—29:21)

“I would encourage people to look around at our aging adults and just spread a little smile, a little love, and a little respect for them when they come into the office.” (32:31—32:42)

“Dental professionals — let's don't have invisible people.” (33:02—32:04)


0:00 Introduction.

2:03 How Sonya became The Geriatric Tooth Fairy.

7:04 How she started her business and conference.  

11:50 Taking dentistry to the people.

15:04 What most dentists get wrong about mobile dentistry.

16:21 What dentists least understand about the financial model.

19:36 Future National Mobile and Teledentistry Conference dates.

21:19 The Denobi Awards.

27:49 The future of mobile dentistry.

30:39 More about Sonya and how to get in touch.

32:24 Last thoughts and words of advice.  

Reach Out to Sonya:

Sonya’s website: https://sonyadunbar.com/

Sonya’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sonya.carpenter

Sonya’s social media: @geriatric_toothfairy


Jet Dental: https://www.jetdental.com/

National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference: https://nmdconference.com/

TelScope: https://hollandhealthcareinc.com/products/app/

Sonya Dunbar, RDH Bio:

Sonya Dunbar, also known as the Geriatric Tooth Fairy, is a Registered Dental Hygienist, TEDx, and national public speaker guided by 29 years of dental experience in private practice, skilled nursing facilities, and academia.

Sonya and her husband, Gerald Dunbar (Navy Veterans) are the proud parents of four successful children. Sonya and Gerald are the owners of Mobile Dental Xpress, which provides onsite comprehensive dental care to residents in long-term care facilities.

Sonya is the author of Golden Nuggets for Life. Furthermore, Sonya is the Co-Founder of the National Mobile and Teledentistry Conference, and Co-Founder of the American Mobile and Teledentistry Alliance. The National Day Archives proclaim and certify that November 9th of each calendar year is officially designated as The Geriatric Tooth Fairy Day. 


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