La Cañada Flintridge has its Oscar-winning artists and its NASA scientists and, also, its family of five-star dentists.
“It’s like where science and art combine,” said Dr. Brandon Ho, of his family’s chosen field. “I dream about it. I love it.”
His father, Dr. Ken Ho, has been in the business — not the teeth business, but the people business, he’ll tell you — in LCF since 1980, when he purchased the La Cañada dental practice and established a local legacy that now spans generations.
Ken Ho and his wife, Victoria, a dental hygienist, raised four sons in LCF. The boys attended Paradise Canyon Elementary School, graduated from La Cañada High School and two of them, Brandon and Chandler, gravitated to the business of caring for people and their teeth. (Garrett became a minister and Darren an entrepreneur.)
Brandon Ho, 38, works beside his dad as a dentist at La Cañada Cosmetic Dentistry, the tasteful stone building down Foothill Boulevard near the 210 Freeway on-ramp.
Brandon’s wife, Dr. Vanessa Shing-Ho, is also a dentist with a business in Burbank. They met as counselors at a Christian sports camp, where Vanessa introduced herself during a getting-to-know-the-group session as being from LCF and wanting to be a dentist. Brandon could not believe it: “I’m like, ‘I’m Brandon and I’m from La Cañada and I want to be a dentist!’”
Vanessa’s sister? Also a dentist.
And Brandon’s brother, Dr. Chandler Ho, is an orthodontist at an office in Glendale, where his boss, Dr. Arthur Hudson, is a second-generation orthodontist.
“Maybe if you’re on the outside, there’s a certain fear: ‘I don’t want to be in people’s mouths,’ and so there’s definitely some hesitation,” Chandler Ho, 31, said. “But if you grow up around it, you realize what a great field it is if you have the chance to do it.
“You can actually have a balanced life in the dentistry field, so a lot of families that are already in the field, they recognize that, so they want to pursue it themselves.”
Chandler and Brandon witnessed, from a front-row dentist’s chair, how fulfilling dentistry could be.
“Growing up, by default, every career report or anything at school was about dentistry,” Chandler said. “Because the easiest person to interview would be our dad.”
But more than provide easily attainable direct quotes, Ken Ho modeled a different way to do dentistry.
“He was invested in the community,” Chandler Ho said. “A lot of our teachers, and our friends and their parents were patients at the office and we were able to see the impact that he could have through his work.”
“The three of us have a different outlook on dentistry,” Ken Ho said. “Dentistry is not solely to make a living; we view it as a ministry. We want to help people. We want to take care of any discomfort or pain they may have, to save and preserve their teeth for a lifetime, to treat them as people, to do a good job for them, to make them self-confident in their smile.”
“That’s why I think the main thing for me wanting to become a dentist is that I saw my dad was able to help these people and these people, in turn, would trust my dad,” said Brandon Ho, whose children Caden and Kaitlyn, now like to come play at his office.
“And then his patients became his friends more than patients.”
The Hos have taken that concept and expanded it to serve people in El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala.
When Brandon Ho was on his way to graduating with honors from dentistry school at USC (where his father graduated top of his class and Chandler was magna cum laude), he revived the Christian Medical and Dental Association, directing a mission trip to Guatemala with about 10 fellow students and six or seven dentists.
On the first trip, and on all the subsequent excursions that members of Team Ho have made almost annually to those underserved regions, they work on hundreds of people over the course of a week, distributing toothbrushes, offering instruction on proper brushing and returning smiles to people who’ve gone without for too long.
“This lady comes in with all sorts of decay and she doesn’t want to smile,” Brandon Ho said. “And then she leaves like this, [smiling.] It changes their life, you know?”
That’s true abroad and at home, where La Cañada Cosmetic Dentistry is described enthusiastically in dozens of sparkling online reviews.
One after another, patients such as Matt Birney leave messages like: “I cannot say enough positive things about both Dr. Brandon Ho and Dr. Kenneth Ho. I have been coming to them for several years now and they are wonderful. They take the extra time to explain everything that is going on and they are more than willing to sit and answer any questions that you might have.”
Or Jonathan Sum: “I was previously seeing another dentist, who was very good. However, I had a gut feeling that my care was based upon what was allowable by insurance, and not based on what was needed as a patient. I transferred my care to Dr. Ken and Dr. Brandon Ho, and have had nothing but positive experiences. … They have even stayed late after hours to work on my wife. This is going beyond the normal call of the dental profession.”
Or Bruce Lamond: “Best dentist I’ve ever had, by a considerable margin.”
Alene Neff has been seeing Ken Ho since he took over the office 37 years ago, “back before novocaine.”
“He always tried to be very gentle,” she said. “They are very conscientious and do a very good job. And they’re up on the latest, whatever is new.”
“The thing I love about my dad is that he’s willing to step into new technologies,” Brandon Ho said. “There are really good dentists who’ve been doing the same thing they’ve done for the past 20 years, you know? But now there’s less-invasive dentistry, different kinds of whitening that won’t damage your teeth, there are lasers, there’s all this new technology. I love working with my dad because he’s willing to think forward, to think, ‘What’s better for the patient?’”
“Brandon is on top of everything,” Ken Ho said. “He’s very organized, he’s great with the patients, and I really think he’s better than I am and I get his opinion a lot.”
“That’s just my dad being my dad,” Brandon countered.
That’s why, when Brandon needs to visit the dentist, he sees his dad, and vice versa.