DSOPro Exclusive

Combining Operations, Procurement, and Education to Ensure 123Dentist Dental Hygienists Can Offer the Best Care

Jennifer Turner, VP of Dental Hygiene Operations for 123Dentist discusses her career—from practicing to teaching to leading professional dental hygiene organizations—and the advantages of understanding both the clinical and business side of a DSO.

DSOPro: Tell us about your background, and how you got into dental hygiene and the DSO industry.

Years ago, I worked as a dental assistant with an amazing husband and wife team of dentists, and I felt like I mastered those skills and wanted a new challenge. The female dentist kept pushing me, saying I should go back to school. I decided to go to school for dental hygiene. I loved helping patients and I worked clinically for years. Then I realized that there was something greater out there for me, and I started making connections within the dental industry. One day quite a few years after I graduated, I ran into one of my professors in the grocery store, and she offered me an interview for a clinical position at my alma mater. That’s how my love for education took off—I could see “light bulb” moments in the students I was teaching. I moved into a full-time professor position, and eventually won a great award for “Excellence in Teaching” from the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association. It was humbling and very rewarding.

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Many of my close friends thought I shouldn’t run in the election to move into the regulatory side of dental hygiene, which mandates protecting the public and regulating the profession of dental hygiene in Ontario. However, I was elected and soon became the President and Chief Governance Officer at the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario.

I then went to work for the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association as Director of Dental Hygiene Practice. It was wonderful to see the member side of what happens, and to be working for dental hygienists, making sure our profession advances. We have approximately 31,000 dental hygienists in Canada.

Next, my career path brought me into the DSO world. I worked at dentalcorp, which is currently the largest Canadian DSO, for almost 3 years. I learned from a lot of strategic minds and from the processes that were put in place, gaining an understanding of metrics and key performance indicators, and sharing my love for dental hygiene with practices across Canada.

Currently, I am working with the second-largest DSO in Canada, 123Dentist. The reason I enjoy my job as Vice President of Dental Hygiene Operations with 123 is we have so many professionals with roots in the dental profession. For example, our CEO is a practicing dentist in Vancouver, British Columbia, and our Chief Dental Officer is a practicing dentist in Calgary, Alberta. Our Chief Orthodontic Officer practices just outside of Vancouver. Our Vice Presidents of Operations are both practicing dentists based in Toronto, Ontario.

We have many regional managers across Canada who all have dental experience, whether they were working in the dental industry for one of our suppliers or working in practices as dental assistants. This model really works for me. I see it working for our Partner dentists and our teams because we understand the business and the clinical side. That means so much to the dental hygienists working in our practices.

DSOPro: How would you describe your company and how it’s set up to support dental hygienists?

The best way I can explain that is 123Dentist has a “people first” culture right from the top. Our CEO cares about people, and that is a thread that runs throughout our entire organization. When we treat our team members properly, everything else falls in place. That is what 123Dentist is known for in Canada—its people first culture.

DSOPro: Is there a focus on technology at 123Dentist?

Yes, there is. In my opinion, if we are doing the same type of dental hygiene we were doing when we graduated from school, if it has been a while, then we are not doing something right. I always draw this parallel: who has the same cell phone they did 10 years ago? Not many of us. There is a lot of new technology in dental hygiene. We have a major initiative in place with digital scanners, mainly iTero. Digital scanning elevates the patient experience. Most people are visual learners, so when we are helping them understand what is going on in their own mouth, for them “seeing is believing.”

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DSOPro: AS VP of Dental Hygiene Operations, how does your role relate to both training and procurement?

We categorize those components into two separate buckets. From the training perspective, my role is to set up education and training for 123Dentist dental hygienists across Canada. That can be live, in-person events, webinars, small study clubs, and mentorship programs for newer grads working in our network.

I’m super excited to be organizing our first-ever DSO Dental Hygiene Conference for 123Dentist teams, which will be held this month in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We are celebrating our 123 dental hygienists and bringing teams together to learn, elevate, and grow. It’s going to be amazing. 

I am fortunate to work with our Vice President of Procurement, Jason Brown, on dental hygiene products. Together with the procurement team, we go through many products and decide which we may move forward with for pilot projects. We look at the science, get feedback from our dental hygienists at 123Dentist, and then decide if it is something we will roll out in our network.

DSOPro: Generally speaking, how involved are dental hygienists in procurement decisions?

At 123Dentist, we want dental hygienists to always have what they need to do their job, treat their patients with optimal care, and of course ensure that their ergonomics and bodies are well taken care of. From a DSO perspective, and as a former clinical dental hygienist, I ask the dental hygienists what they will need to provide dental hygiene in 2023 and to break it down into the four quarters of the year. Maybe they order hand instruments in the first quarter,  ultrasonic scaling systems or piezo kits in the second quarter, and new slow-speed handpieces and motors in the third.

I believe if you do not have a plan, then you do not know where you are going. It’s hard if they come to the regional manager on a Friday and say, we need $20,000 worth of new instruments next week. Within the DSO, we can do better. We can work with our procurement department and with the dental companies to give them the best of what we have, so they can do their job well.

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DSOPro: Any tips for dental hygienists to consider who would like to follow your career path?

The biggest piece of advice I would give anyone who wants to dream big is do not give up on yourself, go for it. The best way is to find mentors willing to give their time to meet for coffee, or set up a Zoom call, and have those conversations. I also think LinkedIn has been an amazing tool in my career in terms of networking with people around the world who are in a similar position or something that’s on a different scale from mine. Reaching out to them, connecting, and having those conversations really helps you to grow and learn. You also need to be curious and attend events and conferences, whether it’s the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association or RDH Under One Roof or any of those great ones out there now, and truly connect with people who you admire and want to learn from. We are all human and people want to share their stories and help others.

In the United States, DSOs are light years ahead of us, like 20 to 25 years. Our DSO space for big groups is about 12 years old. dentalcorp has been around about 12 years and 123Dentist for 5 years, although our founder had group practices on his own for almost 27 years.

Here, it is still relatively new, and people are still unsure of what’s happening within this space in Canada. I did learn from an industry partner that the DSO space here is less than 20% of practices, with a DSO classified as a practice group of three practices or more. We have a long way to go. Canada is still a private practice country, but group practices can be so beneficial to the dentists and their teams.

DSOPro: Tell us about your recent awards.

I would love to share, being a Canadian, that I was completely humbled to be the recipient for “Hygiene Educator of the Year” in the speaker category for the DrBicuspid Award, which I recently received at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. The other award I received in 2022 was the “10 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders to Follow in 2022,” which was a global recognition. I am humbled and honored to receive these awards.

This is one of the reasons why I want to get across how important it is to really believe in yourself. When you set a goal and you think it’s too high, make sure you’re focused on how to reach that goal and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many great dental hygienists out there working in different capacities who are willing to share their message, mentor, and help you, but you have to put the work in yourself. I often say to the people I mentor, when you’re scared to jump, that’s exactly when you should. Take a chance on yourself and you won’t regret it!

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About Jennifer Turner

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Jennifer Turner has built her reputation in the dental hygiene world as a natural leader by her sheer professionalism and leadership. Jennifer is the Vice President, Dental Hygiene Operations, at 123Dentist. She is a Past President and Chief Governance Officer with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario, Director of Dental Hygiene Practice with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, and an award-winning Dental Hygiene Professor. 
Jennifer has been globally recognized as one of the “10 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders to Watch in 2022” and, most recently, the recipient of the “Educator of the Year” award from DrBicuspid. 
She has worked with hundreds of dental practices across Canada supporting teams with change management and implementation of clinical systems to enhance and elevate optimal patient care. 
Jennifer has been described as inspirational, knowledgeable, a dynamic speaker and has a true passion for the dental profession. 


123Dentist is Canada’s oldest and second largest network of dental practices with more than 425 locations nationwide and over 5,000 team members serving over 2 million patient visits annually. Our company is founded on two basic principles – putting patient care above all else and customer service. Since our first clinic opened in Vancouver in 1993, our 123Dentist family has grown through the strength of our relationships and partnerships.

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