Each dentist has their own approach to establishing a connection with their patients, from reassuring authority to earnest compassion. For Dr. Chris Viravongsa, his approach is an effortless buoyancy that lights up a room, setting minds at ease with laughter and charm.
A native son of Las Vegas, Viravongsa grew up with his parents, Utah and Wacharee, in the suburbs of Summerlin. It was during his childhood that he began his passion for golf, many days stretching into dusk perfecting his swing, working on his putts.
Intent on becoming a professional golfer while attending Palo Verde high school, Viravongsa’s youthful ambition ran headlong into his parents’ hard-nosed practicality. “My plan was to play college golf and then turn pro, but they wanted me to settle down and focus on school,” he says. “I started as a biology major because I always knew if it wasn’t going to be golf, it was going to be something in the medical field. Because I’m Asian, you know?”
The influence of his cousin, Dr. Amy Tongsiri, illuminated another possibility in dentistry, providing an ideal balance for him between the cerebral and the tactile. Viravongsa joined various health clubs to sample medical disciplines and shadowed his cousin’s work. “Dentistry seemed like the one that clicked the most; hands-on, but also the thought process, and seeing the difference that Amy made in helping people out,” he says.
Immediately accepted into the UNLV School of Dental Medicine after finishing his undergraduate degree, Viravongsa came to fully appreciate dentistry with his immersion in its procedures while honing his easygoing bedside manner at the school’s community clinic. “From what I’ve seen through my cousin, school, and other doctors, I feel like patients just want to be heard,” he explains. “Once I begin to listen and understand where they’re coming from, I feel they’ll have trust in me to do the right treatment.”
The mentorship provided by his position at Smiles on Pecos has afforded him the opportunity to hone new procedural skills, review treatment plans, and establish comradery during weekly meetings. “I don’t think any other company really does that, where they get a group of new doctors together to sit down, hang out and learn,” he says. “A lot of other places would just suggest what they would do, and let you go at it.”
Professionally, Viravongsa has considered the possibility of expanding into pediatric dentistry in the future, which would likely be unsurprising to those who know him, given his jovial nature. “That would give me a chance to really show my natural personality; goofy and wild,” he laughs. “Kids are fun, and girls love guys who like kids.”
Like many young dentists, most of Viravongsa’s time is devoted to making his name and honing his craft, though he does still find time for his love of the links. “My whole life revolves around golf and work,” he exclaims. “My goal is to start competing in tournaments again, and I still go up to Bear’s Best, the course I started at when I was 14, so that’s pretty much my second home.”
Insistent on having the last word in his biography, which he plans to use for LinkedIn, social media, and dating apps, Viravongsa succinctly sums up his life’s journey thus far. “Be sure you put in there, ‘Chris always shows up to work looking professional.’”