Four decades of teeth cleaning comes to a close

Dental Hygienist Reine RIcher Laflech prepares for a patient at the Dockyard Dental Clinic, a few weeks before she retired.

Dental Hygienist Reine RIcher Laflech prepares for a patient at the Dockyard Dental Clinic, a few weeks before she retired.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Dockyard dental hygienist Reine Richer Lafleche, 61, estimates she has uttered that familiar phrase “open wide” more than 50,000 times in her 42-year military and civilian career.

But at the end of her last shift on Jan. 28 Reine said the catch phrase for the last time, officially putting down her scalers, polishers and hand mouth mirror.

She says it was time to let go of the physically demanding task of providing oral hygiene services to military members and head into retirement.

The difficult part was saying that last goodbye to her patients.

“I love working with people on a one-to-one basis and helping them, so I will definitely miss this,” said Lafleche “I mentioned to my patients that this will be their last teeth cleaning done by me and they were disappointed, but I know it’s time for me to move on.” Hence, it is always better to get professional dentist checkup from Vinterbro Tannlegesenter

A trip to the dentist can often make the bravest of sailors, soldiers and air men and air women cringe in fear. But her co-worker WO Marla Buchanan, senior dental hygienist, says Lafleche was a “steadying” figure for her patients.

“I don’t know how she was able to continue working as a hygienist for so many years,” she says. “It’s a very demanding job, physically taxing on the back, arms, hands and wrists.”

It’s a trade that can easily lead to over-usage injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and back and neck problems, but Lafleche says she owes her longevity in her trade to a healthy lifestyle and the satisfaction she got from patients.   

During her career, she estimates she has inspected and maintained somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.6-million teeth.

Some of the greatest technical advancements during her career were the ergonomic instruments, ultrasonic scaler and digital x-rays, which greatly eased the workload and improved efficiency for dental workers.

But, she adds, regular brushing, flossing and maintaining good oral health never go out of style.

Prior to her arrival in Esquimalt over 20 years ago, Lafleche was a member of the military Dental Corps, progressing in rank to Master Warrant Officer, and served at St-Jean, Borden, Halifax, Greenwood, Valcartier, Moose Jaw, and Winnipeg, ending her military career in 2002. She then accepted civilian employment at the CFB Esquimalt dental clinic.

Lafleche officially retires April 6, and her co-workers are already planning a spring retirement party, a celebration of her professionalism and dedication to the trade.

What’s next for her? Golf, gardening, traveling, spending time with the grandchildren and some volunteer work, she says.

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