A Family Legacy of Dentistry in Underserved Communities
For many dentists, it’s a dream scenario to have your child join you in the profession and your practice. And when the two of you work side-by-side in communities that are underserved by dental care, the experience becomes even more meaningful.
Three Ohio State College of Dentistry legacy families are fortunate enough to be living this “dream scenario.” They’re filling important needs in their respective communities, while strengthening family bonds.
Susan Wilson-Brooks, ’83 DDS, and Maurina Brooks, ’18 DDS
Hot Smile General & Implant Dentistry, Columbus, Ohio
Bill Brooks, Maurina Brooks, ’18 DDS, and Susan Wilson-Brooks, ’83 DDS, at the College of Dentistry’s 2018 Convocation.
Dr. Maurina Brooks may have grown up in the dental practice of her mother, Dr. Susan Wilson-Brooks, but it wasn’t always a given that she’d join her in the profession. Then, at age 15, she saw her mother do a cosmetic reconstructive procedure for a patient who could not afford crowns or veneers. “She had to form and reshape the tooth by hand,” recalls the junior Dr. Brooks. “When I saw her do that, and the patient’s self-confidence bouncing back after the procedure, I thought, ‘This is the life-changing effect I want to have on people.’”
Dr. Brooks earned her dental assistant radiographer license at age 16 and worked in her mother’s east Columbus practice before enrolling at Ohio State’s College of Dentistry to develop the same “amazing clinical skills” as her mother. When she graduated with her DDS in 2018 as the youngest member of her class, she became the college’s first Black female legacy alumna. “I’m very proud of the fact that we made that inroad, and hopefully we can inspire a lot of other little girls who look like us, and little boys in our community, to pursue this profession as well,” Dr. Wilson-Brooks said.
Hot Smile General & Implant Dentistry is the first Black mother-daughter owned practice in Columbus. The practice primarily — though not exclusively — serves people of color. “We have patients from all across the board who come to us not just because of the color of our skin, but because we have an excellent reputation as practitioners and offer quality dental care in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere,” said Dr. Wilson-Brooks, who credits her husband, Bill Brooks, with supporting and championing her and her daughter’s dreams.
Because of past events that have sewn distrust in the healthcare system, noted Dr. Brooks, “having Black providers as an option can make some patients feel more comfortable, and I’m glad we can fill that gap.”
The duo illustrates just how much representation matters. Dr. Wilson-Brooks was first inspired to the profession by her childhood dentist. Now, families seek out Hot Smile to show their children that a career in dentistry is within reach. “We have a lot of patients who bring their kids here — to see us and feel us and touch us and know this is possible,” said Dr. Wilson-Brooks, who continues to inspire her daughter.
“My mother made amazing leaps and bounds in her profession when she first started, and I want to continue that legacy and tradition of excellence in my career,” Dr. Brooks said. “It took until 2014 for the first Black female legacy student to get to Ohio State. I would love to see hundreds more of us in the future. I want to inspire other young women to pursue advanced health care degrees and know there’s no cap on their success.”
Darrel Scott, ’77 DDS, and Tyler Scott, ’09 DDS
Scott Dental Group, Loudonville, Ohio
(From right) Darrel Scott, ’77 DDS, and Tyler Scott, ’09 DDS, stopped by the College of Dentistry booth to meet Dean Carroll Ann Trotman during the ODA Annual Session on October 1. Also pictured, Ted Backus, College of Dentistry Senior Director of Development.
When Dr. Tyler Scott completed an externship as a part of the Oral Health Improvement through Outreach (OHIO) Project as an Ohio State College of Dentistry student, he spent two weeks learning from someone who had already given him a lifetime of training: his father, Dr. Darrel Scott. The OHIO Project connects fourth-year dental students to externships throughout Ohio, including communities underserved by dentistry — like Loudonville, Ohio, where the Drs. Scott practice at Scott Dental Group.
“The OHIO Project is a great way to expose students to the joys and challenges of small-town dentistry,” said Dr. Tyler Scott, who has now come “full circle” as a trainer for OHIO Project students who do externships with Scott Dental Group. “We’re helping students open their eyes to what is down the road after they graduate, getting them into real-world situations,” he said. “We’re promoting small-town dentistry for future generations so it doesn’t become extinct.”
The broad range of skills needed for small-town dentistry are important, said Dr. Darrel Scott, who bought his practice in 1980 from a retiring dentist as Dr. Scott and his wife scouted Ohio’s small towns for a nice place to live and work. “The joy of working in small town is that you can do the whole gamut of dentistry. The more services you bring to the community, the better it is for the patients.”
Since some patients don’t want to travel to bigger cities for specialty care, the range of services Scott Dental Group provides can mean the difference between a person losing or keeping their teeth. “If I want someone to go to a specialist 40 minutes away, sometimes people just opt to remove their teeth,” said Dr. Tyler Scott. “It’s a special thing to provide dentistry in a small town.”
Another way Dr. Tyler Scott helps underserved patients is by providing care to the Latino community in the area. With the help of his wife, Paola, a dentist from Mexico, he has been able to learn Spanish to help break the language barrier for his patients. “Farmers come in and trust me because I speak their language. That helps build trust with them, and they feel comfortable getting dental care done here that they wouldn’t have done somewhere else.”
For the senior Dr. Scott, having his son join his practice has been a joy. “There’s a lot less stress having another person in the office. There’s always someone to have your back.” Having his son in the practice has also helped to increase their technological capabilities, enabling dental implants, sleep apnea treatments, 3D printing and more.
Like his father, Dr. Tyler Scott is active in the community, holding leadership positions in local and national dental organizations. He was recently named one of the “40 Under 40” brilliant achievers in dentistry by Incisal Edge magazine. The honors just fuel his desire to serve patients. “It’s important to keep educating yourself. I’m doing this for my patients more than anything.”
John Davis, ’71 DDS, and Todd Davis, ’00 DDS
Davis Family Dentistry, Ironton, Ohio
(From left) Todd Davis, ’00 DDS, and John Davis, ’71 DDS, at their office in Ironton, Ohio.
For generations, the Davis family has lived in Ironton, Ohio — just across the Ohio River from Kentucky and West Virginia. But in recent decades, Ironton has experienced high unemployment and other economic woes that are impacting the community’s oral health.
Dr. John Davis opened Davis Family Dentistry in 1976 after earning his DDS from Ohio State in 1971 and serving in the Navy. He was joined by his son, Dr. Todd Davis, in 2005. Together, the two offer a wide range of dental services to meet the needs of their community, which is considered underserved by dentistry. “I’ve always responded to the needs of our area, and the needs of our area are a lot different than other places,” said Dr. John Davis, noting a lack of dental specialties in the area. “You have to be ready to do a little of everything.”
Sometimes, the work can be daunting — like when pediatric patients need full mouth extractions due to a lack of prevention. “With some of the cases, you’re shocked with the realization that this can happen in America. You can see that level of need,” said Dr. Todd Davis, who chose to return to his hometown to practice with his father after serving in the Air Force.
Growing up, he admired that his father worked hard but also had time to spend with the family, coaching his son’s baseball team and doing other things that some working parents couldn’t do. “I saw that my father had respect in the community and a calling to a profession he enjoyed,” Dr. Todd Davis said. “And, if you’re in a health profession, you know you’re helping to alleviate pain and suffering and improving quality of life.”
The senior Dr. Davis agreed. “I think that more than anything else, you need to feel a calling for people — a calling to help, to be concerned about them and to go the extra mile at times if you have to.” He worries about the future of small-town dentistry, as long-practicing dentists retire and recent graduates struggle with educational debts and high costs associated with starting practices. He hopes more post-graduate residency options might connect recent graduates to the training they need to work in underserved areas.
He also hopes new dentists will see the many benefits — and the beauty — of small-town life. Despite the challenges, Ironton has been a great place to raise a family and see his grandchildren grow up. He is proud that he helped his undergraduate alma mater, Ohio University, bring a branch campus to Ironton so that young people in the community can access an affordable college education. “There are things you can feel really good about in smaller communities. This is a unique little community, and I’m happy to be part of it.”