Using Dental Degree for Greater Good

The repercussions of the 2008 recession were still very much felt when Thomas Sniscak ’10 entered the workforce. Looking for opportunities, he saw a position at a county jail.

“Nobody really thinks about graduating dental school and working at a jail,” he said. “I figured I'd give it a try, and it turned out I really loved it.”

Sniscak at AGD
Sniscak (right) at the Academy of General Dentistry Convocation in 2019.

Thirteen years later, he’s still working one day a week at the Ocean County Jail. But this is only one of the many ways Sniscak, who owns a practice in Belmar, NJ, has been using his dental degree to positively impact his community.

Like many, Sniscak knew early on that he wanted to go into healthcare unsure of a specialty. As an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University, he started dipping his toes into different healthcare professions, including dentistry. He first shadowed his own dentist and liked working with his hands and the idea of having his own business. Then, he attended Rutgers School of Dental Medicine’s (RSDM) Gateway to Dentistry Program and got a taste of dental school.

“I hope they never lose that program,” he said, “because it was really huge getting to see the clinic, and the faculty were very warm to us as college students.” He also got paired with an RSDM student who became a lifelong friend.

Sniscak matriculated into RSDM in 2006. He was recognized for his academic achievements and inducted into the national dental society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). Outside classes, he became the class president. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I became more comfortable with public speaking and leadership, which translated to taking a more active role when I left dental school.”

Sniscak with faculty
Sniscak (center) receiving his OKU certificate.

His involvement in organized dentistry started with the New Jersey Dental Association, where he became the chair of New Dentists Committee for several years. He helped the organization assist new dentists at a time when dentistry was shifting to digital. He later became one of the youngest presidents of the Monmouth-Ocean County Dental Society. He is currently a representative of American Dental Association’s Council on Membership.

His career, on the other hand, began with a general practice residency at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center and led him to become the hospital’s first on-call general dentist. “It was a big honor for me,” said Sniscak. He still holds that role and is active in the residency program.

He also continues his work at the Ocean County jail. “The need is tremendous,” he said. “I'm seeing people in their early 20s that have never seen a dentist before.” He also sees a lot of patients suffering from addictions. “[They] don't recognize themselves when they look in the mirror,” he said. “Dentistry plays an important role in removing scars of their past lives and helps their recovery.”

Moreover, Sniscak has been volunteering with the New Jersey Dental Lifeline Network, which provides dental care to the elderly with limited means. He sees one patient a year for all their dental needs. Last year, he joined the organization’s board, too.

“That’s really important to me,” he said. “I’m trying to get more people inspired to that as well.”