Jacquie Clements has won the Oral Health Therapist of the Year Award at the New Zealand Oral Health Association awards.
The award comes just a year after Jacquie went out on her own and started Kāpiti Oral Health Clinic.
"I was stoked to win.
"I wasn't really expecting it, but I think a lot of people that get nominated are generally quite humble and think of themselves just as everyday practitioners.
"It was a really nice surprise."
Working closely with local dentists, Jacquie is an oral health therapist who works to help prevent disease and help with general oral health.
"We look at disease management, but we predominantly treat gum disease along with other diseases in the mouth.
"We screen for cancer and also help reduce the risk of decay - so it's about prevention."
Last year the New Zealand Dental & Oral Health Therapists Association (NZDOHTA) and the New Zealand Dental Hygienists Association (NZDHA) amalgamated to form the New Zealand Oral Health Association, with the awards taking place at their annual conference.
Jacquie said her practice is unique in the Wellington region because most other oral therapists work within a dental practice.
"Our place is an independent hygiene clinic and I'm pretty sure we're the only one in Wellington.
"Most hygienists work within dental practices, but there's been this movement in New Zealand of hygienists opening up independently.
"Usually, if you want a hygienist you call your dentist, but I've set up this place which is unique in the Wellington region."
Jacquie believes this is partly why the judges gave her the award.
"The creation of this place is fairly unique, but we've also done a bit of community work going into primary schools and made mouth guards for Paraparaumu College."
Working closely with her former employer Kāpiti Dental Centre next door, Jacquie gets referrals from the centre and other dentists around the district.
"We've been open just over a year and the response from patients has been amazing.
"There's been a lot of growth since we opened and are looking to expand next year.
"The growth has been really cool, I haven't had to advertise at all.
"I think this is a movement of the future, there is so much demand for dental hygiene."
The change came for Jacquie when she was off on maternity leave with her third child, about the same time the Covid-19 lockdowns were forcing people to stay home.
"I'm not the only person in this situation where Covid-19 spurred on a lot of opportunities.
"It was the time away on maternity leave where I reflected on what I wanted to do. I loved working for Kāpiti Dental Centre, but I was ready for my next phase."
Running Kāpiti Oral Health Clinic has meant a lot of late nights for Jacquie who does most of the clinical work along with the business development and administration while also keeping her family running.
"I took that leap of faith and it was about timing and opportunity. Coming over here was a natural progression."