The Joy of Dentistry
By Olivia Boynton | Photos by Paulina R
Dr. Brandi Faia is a mother and dedicated community partner who follows her passions, and in doing so is a paragon of community service. As a pediatric dentist, Faia’s joy is contagious. From office staff to patients, everyone has a hard time not smiling when Faia is in the room.
“I love coming to work!” says Faia. “It’s a challenging job, but it is hard to have a bad day, working with children and a terrific team of women I love and respect. I get to be silly, laugh a lot, and I get to wear sparkly shoes!” All joking aside, she treasures being part of a child’s first dental experience because she has the opportunity to turn it into a positive memory.
Faia especially enjoys working with children with special needs. As the mother of two neuro-atypical teenage boys, both diagnosed with autism in addition to various motor, sensory, visual, and auditory-processing issues, she understands the challenges these children face. As such, she is able to connect with them and their families on a deeper level.
Although she came from a family of dentists (including her father, Dr. Ron Faia, an endodontist, her uncle Dr. Jack Faia, a pediatric dentist, and her grandfather, Dr. John Faia, a periodontist), she never dreamed of becoming a dentist herself. At the age of 14, she began working summers as a dental assistant for her father and was uninspired by root canals. Taking the “scenic route” through college, she changed her major several times, from pre-med to studio art, film studies, and creative writing, and finally graduated with a degree in economics from UC Santa Barbara.
In 1992, she was 23 years old, fresh out of college, disillusioned, and working in a lackluster corporate finance office, in a cubicle, repossessing merchandise. She decided to take a break from her corporate career to reassess her employment goals. That summer, her family headed to Guatemala on a mission trip to provide dental services with the Flying Doctors of America, and they encouraged her to come along as a dental assistant. Working and assisting children in a shirt-factory-turned-makeshift-dental-clinic changed her life.
“What do you think if I went back to school and became a dentist?” she asked her father on the plane ride home. Two days later, she began prerequisite science courses, and the following year she applied to dental school.
Faia has worked with Dr. Mark Bayless’ office in Monterey since 1998. “I love the fact that we get kids that are in college and don’t want to go to adult dentists, and patients who come back with their own children,” she says. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch Tom and Jerry while getting your teeth cleaned with bubble-gum toothpaste?”
As a third-generation dentist and a fourth-generation Carmel resident, her impact in the community is not limited to her office. She assists the local coroner’s office, using forensic dentistry to identify remains. She also makes time to volunteer with the International Health Emissaries, a nongovernmental organization founded by a small group that included her uncle, her father, and her work partner. The organization is committed to providing free dental care to people throughout the world who have no access to such services.
“It is a tradition of giving that my parents passed on to me, and I want to share with my own children,” says Faia. “It takes a village of volunteers and many hours of work to put it together—collecting supplies, packing equipment, arranging visas and places for the volunteers to work and stay. My job is the easy part. I get to show up and do what I love, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the amazing volunteers.”