Editor's note: The American Dental Association is seeking nominations through Dec. 31 to recognize 10 new dentists in 2021. Honorees will receive a $1,000 gift card and be recognized in various ADA publications and channels. For more information or to nominate a new dentist, visit ADA.org/10under10.
An physics major who wasn’t sure which direction he wanted to take, Dr. Brian Homann soon settled on dentistry at the suggestion of his then-girlfriend, turned wife. Following his graduation from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Dentistry in 2012, Dr. Homann opened Elk Grove Family Dental, a private practice that offers general, family and cosmetic dentistry.
“[It has been] pretty consistent over the years” Dr. Homann said, reflecting on his dental journey. “[That] there's always something new going on.”
Coming out of school, he added, he worked in a variety of offices, which allowed him to see not only what he enjoyed, but what he would like to do in the long term.
“And for me, that was a mix of doing something in both the private world and the public sector, which in most cases [for me was] something on a volunteer basis,” Dr. Homann said. “So I try to mix the two, and it keeps me well-grounded and appreciative of all the things that we as dentists can do.”
His desire to work in both private and public sectors was birthed from a life-changing opportunity while in dental school. At an off-site, volunteer rotation, Dr. Homann, along with others served those who were homeless. And while that opportunity was certainly impactful, it was witnessing a service done on one of the patients that would further shape his career in dentistry.
“I saw a gentleman getting a new set of dentures, and you could see the excitement on his face when he saw his smile for the first time,” he said.
Describing it as an experience that he’ll never forget, he adds that it, “made me realize that I can make a denture in my office, but it's a very different experience making a denture for someone who doesn't necessarily have the means to get one, or has limited options. So that's why I wanted to have my hands in both the community dentistry and private practice sectors.”
In addition to changing people’s lives and smiles with dentures, Dr. Homann says that one of his greatest or most memorable moments is, “just learning about other people and seeing what we can do, or how big of a difference we can make in their lives.”
Specifically referring to the homeless population, after only a few days in the clinic, Dr. Homann quickly shifted his view on what being “homeless” meant.
“When I got to know them, I learned that a lot of them are incredibly hard-working individuals,” he said. “It opened my eyes to the stereotypes that are out there and how we can help people through dentistry.”
Looking back on how his life has changed since becoming a dentist, Dr. Homann said he simply loves what he does.
“When I go to my office or to volunteer, I don't think of it as most people do,” he said. “I don’t think of it as work. I love what I do, and just being there. I don't know how many hours I work each week because it doesn't feel like work. Dentistry is a part of me now, not necessarily just what I do. And while it is my career, to me, it’s so much more.”
Based on what he has learned and experienced since becoming a dentist, Dr. Homann says to anyone going into the profession that they’re in a unique position to help those in need.
“We can go out and provide a service that no one else can,” he said. “And if we don’t then it’s not going to be provided.”
“I know that we sometimes get into our routine of private practice, but I encourage more people to give a free service or find an organization nearby that will allow you to go into their space and provide one,” he added. “It’s a needed thing and we’re never going to run out of opportunities for that to happen. That first step may be difficult, but once you do it, you’re going to realize just how huge of an impact you’ll have on people’s lives.”