After years as a dental hygienist Margo Mannila has launched her own business, and she’s going where the patients are — literally.
Mannila, an Astoria native, started N2 Oral Health, a mobile dental hygienist business, in January 2015, but only recently started seeing patients in earnest, she said. While many of her current clients are elderly, Mannila said she plans to serve any patient who finds it difficult to make it to a dental office, including underserved children or homebound patients.
So far she’s started working with care facilities in Astoria and Seaside, but she plans to expand that range up to Longview.
The business is the fulfillment of a long-held goal to work with the elderly, Mannila said. That began when she first entered college as a gerontology major at the University of Oregon, before making a career change years later to become a dental hygienist.
“If you’re trying to provide these elderly people a service, what you’re trying to do ultimately is to provide them with a quality of life,” she said. “It’s really, really an important service that people don’t understand. That’s what I’m trying to provide them in the comfort of their own homes.”
Mannila will offer teeth cleanings and other common dental services, including scans for decay and oral cancer. While she can’t diagnose more serious conditions like tooth decay, she will be able to tell patients when they need to make the trip to a dentist’s’ office for a more thorough appointment, she said. For many patients that role is crucial, she said, because they might otherwise not have known about a developing condition and let it go past a healthy point without realizing it.
As a mobile dental hygienist, Mannila can meet her patients wherever they are, she said.
“I can take my things, I can just take them to a home or facility. A facility is a little bit more efficient because I can line up the patients, have five of them in a day instead of going to Knappa and then going to Seaside or going wherever,” she said.
Being mobile comes with its challenges, though. Mannila said adapting to each new locale and patient takes some creativity on the job.
“You just learn to adapt, because you know what you’re doing, you’re doing the same thing. It’s like cooking in somebody else’s kitchen, really. It was kind of tricky at first figuring out how to set everything up, but it’s just fine,” she said.
The ins and outs of being a dental hygienist aren’t new to Mannila, it’s the difficulties of starting and running a business that she finds most challenging, she said.
From the start she relied on advice from business owners in similar situations, something she said was crucial to getting her business off the ground. She also attended a course on setting up a new business that, while not comprehensive, gave her the building blocks to deal with some of the nuances of entrepreneurship.
Mannila accepts Medicaid, Oregon Health Plan patients and private insurances, and said she plans to bill patients through a professional, third-party service to prevent any billing mistakes.
Despite the challenges of running and growing a fledgling business Mannila said she’s optimistic about the endeavor as a whole.
“I’ve had a great career in dental hygiene and...I’m excited about where this is going, and I hope it does go well,” she said.
N2 Oral Health
Margo Mannila, RRDH, EP