Originally published in The California Aggie
Mother and daughter dentist duo Jeanne and Kelly Brewer remember the first time they ever worked together. One of Jeanne’s patients needed to have a root canal over a weekend, and with no dental assistants available to help with the procedure, Jeanne offered the job to her daughter, Kelly.
Kelly was seven years old.
“When you’re doing root canal work the person who’s assisting you suctions next to you. She wanted to make sure it was at a perfect angle, and she sat there just doing it perfectly because that was her big job. She was great,” Jeanne said.
So began a lifelong partnership for Jeanne and Kelly, who now work together at their own dental practice in Davis. Jeanne grew up in Davis and opened the practice after attending UCLA and working briefly in North Carolina.
Kelly, who graduated from UC Davis in 2005 with a degree in biochemistry, was a fixture in Jeanne’s office after assisting on that first root canal procedure. At the age of 13, she passed the exam to become a Registered Dental Assistant.
Most people don’t take the challenging exam until after high school.
“When I went to check in for the exam they were like, ‘do you have your driver’s license?’” Kelly said. “I was 13 so I had my junior high ID and they said, ‘Are you old enough to take this exam?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am, we checked.’”
Working as a dental assistant while still attending Davis High School meant that Kelly’s patients were often her own friends and classmates.
“I’d be polishing one of my friend’s teeth saying, this is kind of weird,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s fast track to success didn’t end there. At Jeanne’s suggestion, Kelly began taking courses at UC Davis as a high school junior. By the time she entered as a first year in 2000, Kelly had already completed the Organic Chemistry 118 series.
Kelly credits her ability to pursue a diverse selection of extracurricular activities while a student at UC Davis with her consistent enrollment in summer school. She was an ASUCD senator, brewing intern for Anheuser Busch and studied abroad in Italy.
She said all students should feel like they have the time to pursue as many interests as they like.
“I know people hate the notion of summer school but I think it gets a bad rap. It can make your life easier and you have more opportunities to do things,” Kelly said. “Make a list and see what are you most interested in and then tackle it. If an opportunity presents itself, seize it.”
Kelly graduated from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in 2009. Now that she is working alongside her mother, this time as a licensed dentist, her journey has come full-circle.
“One of the nice things about growing up working in her office is that we’re used to working together,” Kelly said. “A lot of times when people try to join their parents’ practice or their siblings’ practice, they can have different practice styles. I think that’s kind of a unique situation that we have. We’ve had the ability to work together.”
UC Davis alumna Amanda Scott first met Kelly at a Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority event in 1999. As a patient of both Jeanne and Kelly, Scott said she never felt uncomfortable having a friend as her dentist. Actually, it came in handy during a particularly rough rugby match.
“A player from Sac State got her front tooth knocked out, so I said, hold on, my friend’s a dentist,” Scott said. “We called Jeanne, took the girl and her mom to the office, and Kelly and Jeanne were able to save her tooth.”
For the Brewers, dentistry is the ultimate confidence boost. Using cosmetic dentistry to help patients rebuild their own smiles is their biggest passion, they said.
Jeanne remembered dozens of patients who went from being ashamed of their teeth to wanting to floss and brush every day.
“When you have confidence in your teeth, you’re perceived as a friendlier person. It can make such a difference,” Jeanne said. “It’s art people wear 24/7.”
Kelly and Jeanne agreed that watching people’s reactions when they see even the smallest improvement in their teeth is the best part of the job. When a patient leaves their office unafraid to smile, they know they’ve done their best work.
“You can tell we love teeth,” Kelly said. “Most people don’t get as excited about teeth as we do. We love what we do.”