Special/Signature Issues » 2014 Top 40 Under 40

Dr. Brent Rusnak, 37

Owner, Rusnak Family Dentistry

"Going to the dentist's office is really no one's favorite thing to do, at all," Dr. Brent Rusnak says. He knows why — he's the same way. When it comes to getting his teeth worked on, he says, "I'm just a big baby."

That's why every aspect of Rusnak's West End practice is designed to soothe and reassure anxious patients. Koi circle a fountain in the lobby, the examination rooms feature massage chairs and TVs, and Rusnak personally brings patients hot towels at the end of their visit. He calls it "spa dentistry."

Formerly phobic patients praise the practice in online reviews. Earlier this year, Rusnak was named Richmond's top general dentist by Richmond magazine. But it's more than the office decor that makes Rusnak special. It's his compassion for the community. He's active with ReeseStrong, a local foundation that raises money to support families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

As an adjunct professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, he supervises students at the Mechanicsville Free Dental Clinic and gives of his time through the Donated Dental Services program. Such services provide free dental work to patients who can't afford to pay for it. And the need is great. Rusnak says the waiting list for the clinic is about a year long. "Most of them are just so grateful to have the work done," he says. "It's some of the most rewarding work you do."

When patients need more complex services than the clinic can provide, he brings them to his office and performs the work free. He recalls one patient who'd just lost her job and had trouble getting hired because she was missing her front teeth. After he did some crown and bridgework, she finally got a new job.