WATERLOO — Emily Boge is leaving her mark on the field of dental hygiene.
More precisely, it’s on a newly designed tool commonly used by dental hygienists to clean patients’ teeth.
American Eagle Instruments calls its new dental scaler the Boge 513. The modified sickle/hoe scaler was designed in partnership with Boge, Hawkeye Community College’s dental administrative chair and current president of the Iowa Dental Hygienist Association. She attended the instrument’s June debut at the International Federation of Dental Hygiene Symposium in Basel, Switzerland, and its later domestic product launch in the Washington, D.C., area.
“They didn’t anticipate the response they got,” said Boge. “It’s pretty cool how fast word can get out about a new product.”
Jim Kelley, chief of staff for Missoula, Mont.,-based American Eagle, said there was a “substantial inventory order” prior to the product’s launch. “The initial success was so great we actually went into a back order situation for a short time,” he said. “Never underestimate Emily Boge.”
The Dyersville woman went to Hawkeye for her dental assisting certificate and hygienist degree. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of public administration at Upper Iowa University. In July 2015, she started at Hawkeye.
During the 12 years prior working as a dental hygienist in Manchester, Boge had ideas about improving the instruments she used every day.
Involvement in a number of professional associations led to joining Colgate’s oral health advisory board. She also built a small business writing and speaking on dental issues. All of that put her into the orbit of those who could potentially do something with her product innovation ideas.
By the time Boge made the pitch to American Eagle, she was among a circle of dental industry people the company went to for feedback on their products.
“She came here on invitation from our director of sales,” said Kelley, with seven other hygienists. “All of these were a who’s who of hygienists.” Even so, he said, Boge stood out with a “dynamic personality” and “command of the subject.”
While there, Boge laid out her concept of a longer, thinner scaler with a modified hoe shaped like the lower jaw. American Eagle’s XP Technology, which embeds titanium nitride into stainless steel, creates an ultra-hard alloy that remains sharp for the life of the instrument. As a result, it can be skinnier than instruments that need regular sharpening.
Her unique hoe design is “kind of bent back on itself, which makes sharpening it impossible,” said Kelley. Preliminary designs were created and prototypes made up in-house. After getting feedback and going through several iterations, the company “had an instrument design that married what her concept was,” he said.
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“It was really neat, because they don’t usually let dental hygienists design things like that,” said Boge.
“New instrument design doesn’t usually happen in working with a hygienist, so it’s a little unique,” Kelley acknowledged. But Boge’s “strong conviction” about her design resonated with him.
This actually wasn’t her first time designing a scaler. In 2012, Boge worked with a different company to create an instrument that is still on the market. Because she and that company didn’t write up a contract in advance protecting her interests, “they kind of took me for a ride” financially.
So, Boge wanted to do things right on her second attempt. She got cooperation from Kelley.
“I told her, ‘Look, I have been in this business for over 20 years and I am not going to do something that isn’t a win-win situation,’” he said. “If these terms don’t work for you, we won’t move forward. I think we were both pleased.”
The company got early indications the Boge 513 would do well.
“We sell all over the world, so we got the product into the hands of our biggest distributor in Germany,” said Kelley. “The feedback came back very positive. The market immediately recognized it as being different.”
A quip the 6-foot, 1-inich Boge made about her height while eating out with Kelley and others during a dental convention is the origin of the tool’s name.
“She referred to herself as being 5-feet, 13-inches tall,” said Kelley. “That was just a point of humor in all my correspondence with her. I would call her 5-13.”
When it came to naming the instrument, he knew exactly what it should be.
“Nothing depicted the person better than Boge 513,” said Kelley. “Emily’s personality is 10 feet tall, anyway.”