Image courtesy of Elizabeth Wong
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Happily ever after with my BP: My decision to retire during a pandemic

July 16, 2020
Elizabeth Xiu Wong, RDH-AP, reflects on her 44-year career in dental hygiene and shares her thoughts on retirement.

May 2020 was the month I planned to retire with my BP.

What do I mean by “BP,” you might ask? I don’t mean my best pal (a fellow dental hygienist, and also a 1976 grad). The “BP” I’m referring to is my Bard-Parker—a glass instrument tray that was formerly used for cold sterilization, but has now begun a second life as a nice planter in my garden.

In May 2020 I celebrated my 67th birthday and started collecting social security benefits. I graduated in 1976 and enjoyed a 44-year career in dental hygiene. Dentistry has changed a lot in that amount of time, and dramatically more now that we're faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sorting through stacks and stacks of back issues of various professional publications, I spotted the June 2020 issue of RDH magazine. Chief Editor Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, said it best in her editor’s note: “At the end of the day, I hope we all can each embrace the decisions we’ve made. We can move to the next chapter of our lives with dignity…”1

I am ready for that next chapter! I was just introduced to my newborn second grandchild on February 16, and the next day the San Francisco Bay Area issued a shelter-in-place order. Right then and there, my family and I knew the decision to retire was right for me.

It’s been a humbling journey of 44 years (plus two more for dental hygiene school). In our state, we are empowered by our own board, the Dental Hygiene Board of California (DHBC). Granted the post-graduate hygienist in alternative practice (RDH-AP) independent license, my skills and passion helped make a change for thousands in underserved populations. My new path will include the passion I always had, from dental hygiene into my personal life. My decades-long history of community service is best summed up by this quote from my interview with American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) magazine, Access: “I embrace and practice what the Hawaiians call ‘malama pono,’ or caring for others in a way that is right.”


1. Sanders J. Editor's note. RDH magazine. 2020;40(6):8. Available at  

Elizabeth Xiu Wong, RDH-AP, enjoyed a 44-year career in dental hygiene before retiring. California's alternative practice opportunities allowed her to reach underserved populations. She chooses to embrace what the Hawaiians call "malama pono," or caring for others in a way that is right.