DR. CAVAN BRUNSDEN comes from humble beginnings — as an immigrant child from London, he and his family of six shared a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. That experience has shaped his commitment to those most in need of dental care ever since, and he was recently named the recipient of the American Dental Association Foundation’s Jeffrey Dalin DDS Give Kids a Smile Volunteer Award.

The program, for which Dr. Brunsden, 67, serves as the state director for New Jersey, has provided $6 million in free dental care to 36,000 children over the last dozen years. “More important,” he notes, “is that each child is partnered with a dental o ce to provide continuing care.”

It’s all in a day’s — and a career’s — work for Dr. Brunsden and his wife, Dr. Nancy Villa, 53, a Jersey City native who’s his practice partner at KidZdent Pediatric Dentistry in the Garden State township of Old Bridge. “Our practice has a strong humanitarian aspect in that we reach out to our community to make them aware of the importance of early dental care for children, and we make a big effort to educate everybody we can,”
Dr. Brunsden says.

To wit: the couple’s substantial involvement in the rebuilding of the pediatric-dental department at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, which is now known as the Brunsden-Villa Pediatric Care Center. “Our initial gift precipitated many other gifts from individuals,” Dr. Brunsden says. The facility “takes care of all undergraduate pediatric education, graduate pediatric education and something that didn’t exist before: a center devoted to special-needs  dentistry.”

In this, Drs. Brunsden and Villa echo their own practice’s efforts: KidZdent serves some 25,000 active patients, including more than 3,000 autistic kids enrolled in a program that offers both dental and behavioral care. Its large orthodontics department, overseen by Dr. Villa, treats both children and adults.

Dr. Brunsden calls the link between the practice’s pediatric and orthodontic specialties “a wonderful symbiosis,” especially when it comes to helping those with special needs. Whether through their practice or the Rutgers facility they’ve done so much to endow, he says, “we’re proud and happy to bring to lots of people’s attention that this population is in need of the skills and talents of dentists all across the country.”

SHOVEL-READY: Drs. Nancy Villa and Cavan Brunsden at the Rutgers facility groundbreaking