While the desire to enter the field of dentistry comes early for some, for others it is a later occurrence. For Dr. Matt Tomoda of Blacksburg Smiles, an early enthusiasm for art later influenced his career choice in his college years. “I always loved art growing up, but also wanted to help people. Dentistry is unique in that it offered me the chance to combine the two.”
Originally from Corona, California, Tomoda moved with his mother, Ingrid, to Chesterfield, Missouri outside of St. Louis at the age of three. While growing up with his mother and grandparents, Tomoda was drawn to creative pursuits. “I was just a goofy Asian kid,” he says, laughing. “I read a lot and was really into drawing, comics, and video games.”
A typical child of the 80s, Tomoda’s interest in archaeology was piqued by the Indiana Jones films. “I grew up on those films and was into social studies and history,” he says. “I liked reading about ancient cultures, excavating some ancient ruin; now I find myself excavating cavities!”
In his early teens, Tomoda’s mother remarried and the family relocated to Virginia. During high school, Tomoda pursued such athletic interests as wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which continued into his college years attending James Madison University in Virginia.
During his sophomore year of college, Tomoda decided on dentistry and graduated with a BA in Biology. “I became interested in dentistry because it offered an aesthetic component combined with the healthcare field that I was interested in,” he explains. Preferring to stay in-state, he continued to Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, earning his DDS in General Dentistry. Tomoda’s first year after dental school was spent in a General Practice Residency at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
As an associate dentist, Dr. Tomoda next joined the practice of Dr. Daniel Thompson and Dr. Dennis Schnecker in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2012. “Beyond aesthetics, there are other parts that are important to me, like interacting with patients and getting them out of pain.”
His initial years at this practice proved crucial for his development and reputation, which led to his expansion into ownership once Thompson and Schnecker retired .
“I was in practice and got to meet all the patients and really establish myself as an associate doctor within the community,” he says. “It was good to make a name for myself there, as it was a well-established practice with phenomenal dentists in Thompson and Schnecker.”
Looming just as large in Tomoda’s life is his endemic Christian faith, that has influenced his everyday life, desire to work in healthcare to help others, and real-world application of altruism. “For me it all boils down to my faith,” he says. “There’s a Proverb I like that says to not lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge God and he will direct your paths.”
Thus, Tomoda has made helping those in need a regular part of his career as a dentist. Since his first dental mission to El Salvador in his freshman year of dental school with Christian Medical and Dental Association, Tomoda has accompanied Drs. Thompson and Schnecker on annual missions to Appalachian Kentucky, providing free dental care to those in need. Though work tends to dominate the life of many a young dentist, Tomoda makes sure to include enough time for family, hobbies and interests. He enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu, target shooting, and outdoor activities like biking and camping, but is most passionate about playing the guitar.
“I love jazz guitarists like Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery and Gilad Hekselman,” he says. “It’s kind of my main hobby and I also play guitar on the worship team at my church. I’ve also been getting into the blues lately, which started after listening to the Black Keys.”
Having settled into his new role as both an owner and a dentist, Tomoda has positioned himself on his path for the foreseeable future. “I want to serve the New River Valley as well as the two doctors who came before me have,” he says. “We believe every individual is special, and with our high standard of care, we want them to feel that way when they come to our practice.”