Hailing from the verdant forests of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, Debbie Fend was first introduced to the dentistry field by a friend’s mother who worked as a hygienist, Debbie worked as a dental assistant while attending college. Though finishing her bachelor’s degree in marketing, Debbie found her chosen field less than inspiring, ultimately deciding her path lay in the work she was already doing.
“I couldn’t see pushing myself in marketing, and I’d decided I wanted to go to hygienist school,” she says.
Shortly after graduating with her associate’s degree as a hygienist in 1994, Debbie relocated to Las Vegas, honing her abilities in practical application while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree as a hygienist at the College of Southern Nevada.
After working at several dental practices, Debbie landed at her current location in September 1999, working with then-owner Dr. Kenneth Kelsey. Three months into her tenure, the practice was sold to Dr. Thomas Tenney, with whom Debbie would serve as hygienist for 15 years, forming an almost brotherly bond. In 2015, Dr. Tenney partnered with Smiles on Pecos to sell his practice, continuing as an associate dentist for a further eight months before relocating out of state.
While nearly 25 years of experience as a hygienist obviously contributes to her skill, the kismet that elevates her work is a relaxed bedside manner, a sly sense of humor, and a near-photographic recall of each patient’s story.
“I’m not uptight or a person who sits there and lectures them, because no one likes to be lectured to,” she says. “If you put them at ease, you get to establish a rapport with them and go from there.”
It is this human connection with patients and co-workers alike that makes her work as a hygienist more than just a vocation, but a true passion. “I can honestly tell you I love my job,” she says. “If I have too many days off, I want to be at work.”
Having worked at the same location for 18 years, Debbie has established a beloved reputation among staff and patients alike, earning the nickname of “The Sheriff” for her steadfastness at addressing where the practice could run smoother. Long time patients of Smiles on Pecos specifically come to be treated by her, preferring to wait if her schedule is full.
“She’s fun to work with, and also our resident therapist,” notes Gaby Gamboa. “Patients love to sit and talk with her. She’s very observant, a great listener, and always willing to give a helping hand.” The doctors she works with have also come to trust her abilities and experience, trusting her judgment in all manners pertaining to patients’ oral hygiene.
In the rare moments when she’s not working, Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband, Dan, and their two cats, and watching or attending football games. She hopes to travel to the Mediterranean, particularly to take in the sights of Greece and the architecture of Rome.
Asked where she sees herself in 20 years, Debbie does not hesitate to say she’ll remain a practicing hygienist. “Call me crazy, but I still enjoy it,” she says. “I love my patients and the people I work with.”