How a hygienist is keeping even elves safe

2020 12 08 17 59 0980 Salafia Regina 250thumb

While the Elf on the Shelf might always get into mischief this time of year, this is a different type of holiday season. After all, if we're all keeping safe by wearing masks, shouldn't even the most mischievous of us -- those wandering elves -- wear them as well?

That was the thought of Connecticut dental hygienist Regina Salafia, who is balancing her love for dental hygiene with a passion for sewing she rediscovered when the pandemic halted dentistry in late March and early April.

The rediscovery of sewing has led to Salafia opening her own business on Etsy and Instagram, which includes tiny masks made specifically for those elves that plop down on shelves this time of year.

Regina Salafia, RDH.Regina Salafia, RDH.

Since unveiling those small masks on social media, Salafia has sold more than 1,000 of them, along with scrub caps that have been purchased by medical and dental personnel. She's soon expanding her shop to include welding caps.

"I started just making some masks for a local hospital because they were in need of them," Salafia said. "I was thinking about making just a very simple mask, and then I ended up making scrub bonnets, because I realized that we were going to need to be covering our hair in dentistry. I always told everyone that I wouldn't sell any masks. I was just donating them, but people kept asking me and I ended up finding a really cute pattern that I really liked and it just kind of took off.

"It's been amazing and I'm having so much fun."

Part of that fun has continued into the holiday season, including what Salafia calls "cute little felt masks" that fit the elves. And she is staying as busy as Santa's elves trying to keep up with demand.

"I have to admit I'm not getting a lot of sleep, but I love it," Salafia laughed. "Every waking minute I'm not at work, I am literally sewing. I'm getting up before 4 a.m. I also work eight minutes away, so I come home on my lunch break and I do whatever I can do morning, noon, and night."

So is something that started as fun when her Middletown, CT, practice closed still fun now that it's become a job as well?

"I actually get excited when it's the weekend and I can sew all day long," she said. "And it's not that I'm just sewing either, because I do a lot of photos of my work and then I have to post them and there's a lot of communication with people too, so I'm having fun."

While she's enjoying sewing, she's still just as passionate about hygiene.

"I was actually excited to come back to work because I missed the socialization," Salafia said. "We're used to talking all day and, honestly, it made me appreciate my job so much being back. It was really neat going back. I was nervous, of course, just like everybody else, but my boss [Dr. Nicole Cambria] was wonderful, making sure we had our [personal protective equipment (PPE)] and making sure the patients felt safe. Those patients are like family to us."

A hygienist who is passionate about her job and her hobby -- and succeeding at both? That would make even the most mischievous elf smile, which, of course, would be hidden behind its very own mask.

Editor's note: If you've rediscovered a forgotten passion of yours during the pandemic and turned it into a "side hustle," we'd love to hear about it. Email me at [email protected] with your story.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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