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Dental Hygienist Is Dedicated to Helping Those in Need

Mary Jensen, RDH, MS, has been a practicing dental hygienist for the past 38 years.

Mary Jensen, RDH, MS, has been a practicing dental hygienist for the past 38 years. A graduate of Southern Illinois University, she also practiced dental hygiene in Switzerland for 3 years before having a family. “It was a fantastic experience to live and work in a foreign country, learn a new language, meet other dental hygienists, and travel!” Jensen exclaims. Little did she know that this travel spark would reignite years later in response to overwhelming dental needs in foreign countries.

Mary Jensen, RDH, MS,
Mary Jensen, RDH, MS, with one of her patients during an Alliance for Smiles mission trip.

Twelve years ago, the dentist Jensen worked for went on a medical mission trip to China through Alliance for Smiles, a Rotary Club-based organization that fo­cuses on cleft lip/palate treatment in developing countries. “I was so happy to learn that dental hygienists were part of the team! I immediately applied and went on a trip to China the following year. It was life changing,” Jensen comments. Since then, she has become the lead dental hygienist for Alliance for Smiles, and has been on 15 mission trips, working in China, the Philippines, Ghana, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar. She helps mentor the dental teams going on the mission trips and coordinates the necessary dental supplies.

Jensen encourages other dental hygienists to participate in the 2-week long trips. The focus is on cleft lip/palate surgery, so the teams include a plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses, pediatrician, dentist, dental hygienist, and dental assistant. “As a volunteer, you need to be flexible and ready for anything. The trust and thanks we receive from the families of the children is so inspiring. It makes you grateful for all you have in your own life,” Jensen notes. For more information, visit:

WhenJensen is not volunteering, she is busy as an independent contractor with HyLife Oral Health Alliance, a network of dental hygienists that provides weekly oral hygiene care to dependent seniors in assisted living and memory care communities. “I have my own clients who I see every week to provide brushing and flossing and dispense products with xylitol,” Jensen explains. She also provides in-service training to nurse assistants and speaks to senior groups on the importance of oral hygiene care and the oral-systemic link. “I am a caregiver for the mouth. A dentist is not needed to provide oral hygiene care,” Jensen asserts.

Jensen remains passionate about dental hygiene, relishing in the experiences gained through mission trips and owning her own business. She is always ready for the next adventure!

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From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. May 2019;17(5):13.

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