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Wearing the Colors of Dentistry with Dr. Alice Hoang

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After graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2010 and spending a decade in New York City practicing in community health dentistry and education — and a few years in private practice — I co-founded my dental studio, Brooklyn Mint Dental. 

At Brooklyn Mint, I practice mindful, modern, whole-health, and patient-centered dentistry
with a passion and commitment to clinical excellence and social and environmental consciousness. Our studio delivers on my vision, which is to challenge the expectations of traditional dentistry using advanced technology, creativity, and integrity in a vibrant and refined atmosphere. 

We run a number of social consciousness initiatives at Brooklyn Mint, and spearheading this work truly motivates me every day by giving me a medium beyond dentistry to use in supporting our community. For example, we’re currently offering small businesses a discounted membership plan — called Mint Condition Membership — so they can affordably offer dental benefits to their staff.

We also have several co-marketing collaborations with neighborhood businesses and prioritize working with small enterprises with a hyperlocal focus. Additionally, we support artists in the community through residencies and commission-free use of our space for art and community projects. And as a way of continuing to pay it forward, 10% of the proceeds for our Mint Condition Memberships go to a rotating list of non-profits whose missions tackle the same issues we feel passionate about — like protecting our environment, improving access to care, and opposing racial injustice and inequality.

Last but not least, we offer smile sponsorships/scholarships so that people or nonprofits can gift a makeover to someone in need. 

In the longer term, I’d like to create a dental assistant training program for single parents, allowing participants to get paid while learning the skills to become a DA. Because we are fully digital, those skills would also include being taught CAD/CAM and smile design.

The idea is to cross-train, so additional areas of learning would encompass concierge-level service and various aspects of business management (insurance navigation, etc.). This would allow trainees to create an income stream that works for them and their families.

The program design stems from my experience working in community health: I treated so many parents, many of them single heads of household who were grinding away at multiple jobs and gigs, and unable to have financial or logistical breathing room to do things they loved, like spending time with their kids. I’m hoping that this program, once built, could give them access to stable employment with benefits. I’d say that similarly, my vision for my life and my dental practice are both influenced by my lived experience in the
world. That experience was completely transformed when I finally started living life out loud as my authentic self. 

Alice’s experience working at Callen-Lorde—the global leader of LGBTQ health—was life-changing. 

When I finally came out in dental school, my life changed. It’s challenging to explain how something as small as opening up about yourself to the people immediately around you can change every aspect of how you experience your world. They say coming out isn’t a singular event — it’s an act you repeat every time you tell someone, and it gets easier over time. After I came out, I decided to move to New York, knowing that living in a gay mecca would speed up my journey to living a truly authentic and free life.

After finishing my GPR at Montefiore Medical Center, I worked at Callen-Lorde—the global leader in LGBTQ health.  While living in New York helped me to feel more comfortable wearing my colors, I credit my decade-long career at Callen-Lorde for helping me embrace gay pride not as a day or a month but as a lifestyle.

There, I was given the tools to discover and welcome my authentic self and the opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ people just trying to make it through. Most importantly, while there, I realized that I belong to a true community. All in all, it was an incredibly rewarding experience in self-discovery while also letting me help those in my community who were disenfranchised and marginalized, giving them access to the quality care they deserved.

The importance of inclusion in dentistry. 

Inclusion requires the involvement of other people, and involving others invites opportunities to empower others.  People gain a sense of dignity, security, self-worth, and respect through inclusion: inclusion is such a simple concept that its importance — and the subtle ways it is denied to people — are easily overlooked. The simple act of silence as a gesture of neutrality is enough to express exclusion.  People are at their best when they are true to themselves. 

To be one’s authentic self, must feel included. When people feel included, they’re better able to contribute to wider groups and society at large without fear of being ostracized. They can freely bring ideas forward from their diverse and differing perspectives and backgrounds while feeling safe.  But that’s the thing: that very space of authenticity and safety is more easily described than created. To foster new perspectives and create environments where people of different backgrounds can contribute, people must take the step to be authentic to who they are while also being empowered and welcome to do so. 

All that said, I strongly believe that principles of inclusivity are easy to understand for those who want to learn and practice them. I was required to take courses on these topics during my onboarding at Callen-Lorde. I remember telling a friend about it, and they were surprised, assuming that I’d already synthesized these perspectives because I’m gay. But I had to learn as anyone else might. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m not scared to learn more about it. If you’re a dentist interested in learning and expanding your perspective, what’s stopping you?  I’ve also learned that inclusive practice is fundamentally rooted in the people who comprise it, which is why our staff happens to be extremely diverse and incredibly compassionate, consummate professionals. (As a side note, we’re also half LGBTQ). 

We try to ground this in other ways too. From a visual and environmental standpoint, we designed it as a neutral but inviting open space where everyone feels welcome and safe. Our goal was for the experience to feel less like healthcare and more life self-care while also offering whole-health, patient-centered dentistry.

We hoped to set the tone of inclusion and representation the moment you enter our studio, where people enter Brooklyn Mint and think: “This is not what I thought a dentist visit would be like at all.”

What ripple do you want to create?

What does success look like to you? What do you want to be remembered for when you die? What do you want others to think, say, or feel about you when you are gone? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be your legacy From this exercise, you learn who you are, what you stand for, what you want to be, and how you want to represent these values. Use this to ground you when you meet adversity because you will. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to try this out. What we all know from the last few years is that tomorrow isn’t promised.

What you do today is a choice. Even if you start small—you can start today.

 

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