WINTHROP, Maine — Maine is only one of two states in the country where dental hygienists can own and operate their own businesses.

Currently there are about 20 independent dental hygiene practices in Maine.  

Kim Fichthorn is the owner of Maine Dental Boutique in Winthrop.

Fichthron, who has been a dental hygienist for 25 years, moved to Maine from Texas two years ago. 

"It was tough, there wasn't that many positions open, so it pushed me to open my own practice sooner than later".

She was lucky she could. Only in Maine and Colorado can dental hygienists, who have obtained a special type of license, work independently. 

"I specialize in teeth cleaning, sealants, fluoride application and teeth whitening."

Fichthorn can also perform oral cancer screenings, take x-rays and check for any tooth decay.

"If I see anything suspicious, areas that I'm concerned about, I would refer you to your dentist" Or one of the many dentists she partners with.

Fichthorn says there are advantages to independent dental hygiene practices. 

They help with Maine's shortage of dentists, particularly in rural areas.

Services can be more affordable and in most cases it's much easier to get an appointment.

"A lot of times dentists, they're wonderful, but they book out 6 to 7 months for a cleaning." 

Jenn Tyler has been going to see Fichthorn since she opened her practice.

Tyler had no idea independent hygiene practices even existed until she saw an ad on Facebook and discovered she could quickly schedule an appointment for her and her three kids on line.

"It's hard to make appointments sometimes so when I saw the ad on Facebook and there was a link to a schedule on line, that's just so convenient. I could go see what days were available, pick what time, services I wanted," Tyler says.

Tyler who doesn't have dental insurance says seeing an independent dental hygeinest is more affordable and an overall better option for her and her family.

"Kim keeps me coming back, she is so sweet and has a really great bedside manner. And I come in for the cleanings but she always checks for everything any problems there might be and I know she's going to tell me to further see a dentist with anything".

Fitchthorn says her biggest challenge is getting the word out about independent dental hygiene practices. 

"There are so many people who haven't been to a dentist in 10 to 15 years, they just feel like they can't afford to go to a dentists office, so at least I can screen them and check for decay and kind of ease them into seeing a dentist."

Fitchthorn just wants to make sure everyone understands the importance of good oral health.

"My goal is to make sure everyone keeps great oral care, prevent a lot of things that can be prevented."

When she couldn't find a job opening in a private practice, she decided to open her own.

Only in Maine and Colorado can dental hygienists, who have obtained a special type of license, work independently. 

Fichthorn specializes in teeth cleaning, sealants, fluoride application and teeth whitening. 

She can also perform oral cancer screenings, take x-rays and check for tooth decay. If further treatment is needed she will refer her patient to a dentist.

Fichthorn says there are advantages to independent dental hygiene practices. 

They help with Maine's shortage of dentists, particularly in rural areas.

Services can be more affordable and in most cases it's much easier to get an appointment.