Skip to content
Features / July 18, 2019

Totally tropical: an interview with Elijah Desmond

by Siobhan Hiscott

Dental hygienist Siobhan Kelleher speaks to Elijah Desmond about combining motivation, dental education and cruising…

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Elijah Desmond, and I am a dental hygienist, motivational speaker, serial entrepreneur, author and proud father of two. I graduated in the United States from Ohio State University in 2009.

Since graduating, I have lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Nevada, and now reside an hour outside of Miami, Florida.

Our industry allows for so many opportunities, and that has allowed me to create 11 businesses.

How did you become a motivational speaker?

At 15 years old I began my career as a motivational speaker for kids. My talks include an overarching theme of being courageous and teaching everyone that they have beautiful minds. I encourage them by telling my own stories and being extremely vulnerable. 

Whenever I speak anywhere in the world for dental professionals, the meeting planner typically places me in a local high school to do a talk while I am there.

Tell us about Smiles at Sea

With Smiles at Sea, I have found a way to combine my passion for vacations and dentistry.

As dental professionals, we need to regularly get continuing education, and it makes sense to me to do it on a cruise to a tropical place!

We have an international dental festival in the spring and in the autumn each year and get enough courses for our state requirements.

The best part of the cruise, outside education, is the fun after classes – which is not over until late! 

How did Dentistry’s Got Talent come about?

More than 100 dental speakers apply to speak on the cruises every year, but we can only have a few. I wanted to create more opportunity, so created Dentistry’s Got Talent where 50 speakers compete in a dental speaking competition. The winner gets a contract to speak on the next cruise, which can be seen live on the Smiles at Sea Facebook page.

Smiles at Sea has grown 32% each year, and we are on target to charter and fill entire cruise ships by 2023.

We anticipate in the coming years cruising all around the world while keeping our focus not only on education but also on making dentistry fun again.

What plans do you have for the future?

For the next year or so, I will be focusing on speaking to high schools, mainly giving motivational concerts.

The motivational concerts will bring children and their parents from 15-20 different high schools together. 

I’ll kick off the event with music and good energy before going into my vulnerable stories to inspire the youth.

I am currently training to be a DJ to prepare myself to give world-class motivational concerts. My DJ name is going to be DJ Smiles!

Elijah Desmond RDH BS is founder and captain of Smiles at Sea Inc. For more details, visit

Siobhan Kelleher RDH owns and is co-owner of Dentalcpd.Expert. She practises in Co Cork, Ireland and was awarded Best Dental Care Professional at the 2014 Irish Dentistry Awards.