Dr. Craig Costanza carries on the Dr. Bommer Legacy
Special to the Journal
At age 92, Dr. Arno P. Bommer looks spry and sharp enough to stand where he stood for the better part of his life: next to a dental chair, treating the myriad of aches and pains that people manage to develop in their teeth. “These days,” he says with a laugh, “I spend most of my time being a patient—a visit to the eye doctor one day, a general checkup another, and today, the dentist.”
But when Arno Bommer goes to the dentist, he adds another page to local history. His current dentist, Dr. Craig Costanza, explains. “My practice today dates back 100 years, to Dr. Arno P. Bommer, and to his father, Dr. Arno M. Bommer, before that,” Dr. Costanza said during a break between patients last week at his Newhall Street office. “It’s really quite a legacy.”
The connection runs deeper than just the century-long continuation of a dental practice. “Dr. Bommer’s father inspired my father to dentistry,” said Craig. “As I’ve heard the story, my father was 14 years old, sitting in Arno M. Bommer’s dental chair, when Dr. Bommer took hold of my father’s hands, held them up and said, ‘these are the hands of a future dentist.’” The words evidently took hold: Craig Costanza’s father Adrian went on to a career that began in 1957 as a general dentistry practice and evolved into an orthodontics practice that flourished until Adrian died in 2018. “The Bommers and the Costanzas have a unique and close relationship,” said Craig.
Dr. Bommer agreed. “The Costanzas are among the very special families from Revere that I remember so fondly,” he said.
The story actually starts in 1894, when Arno P. Bommer’s grandparents came to the United States from Germany. “My grandfather worked for the Chickering Piano Company in Boston,” Arno P. said. “The family lived in Chelsea, there were six children. But my grandfather died at a young age, and my father had to leave school and went to work with the Forbes Lithograph Company.”
Determined to pursue an education, Arno M. Bommer returned to high school several years later while maintaining part time employment at Forbes. He eventually went on to Tufts College Dental School. “He graduated in 1919,” said Arno P. “It was the last class of the three-year dental degree programs.”
Shortly after graduation, Arno M. Bommer started a solo practice in Revere. “He’d walk from Chelsea to his dental office on Broadway,” said Arno P. “His first office was on Broadway near Central Avenue, and then he moved to 349 Broadway where the practice existed for most of his career before it moved to Foster Street.” “He married my mother Marian and they moved to Medford, where I was born,” said Arno P. “But he always remained devoted to his practice and to the community in Revere.”
Craig Costanza has heard many stories of Dr. Bommer’s compassion for the community. “Remember, this practice started shortly after World War I, many new immigrants were still arriving in the Boston area from Europe and then the nation suffered through the Great Depression.
Many people could barely afford food, but Dr. Bommer made sure his patients received excellent dental care,” said Dr. Costanza. As the years passed, Arno M’s practice continued and he became well-known in the profession as a catalyst in establishing educational dental societies and advancing the study of prosthetic dentistry at Tufts during World War II.
By the time Dr. Arno M. Bommer started to scale back his practice in the early 1950s, his son Arno P. Bommer graduated Tufts Dental School. The father-son team carried on the Revere practice. “First, he started taking Saturdays off. Then Fridays,” Arno P. says as he laughs. “Then Mondays…then Tuesdays!” Soon, Arno P. Bommer was carrying on the solo practice in Revere that his father started in 1919.
Arno M enjoyed his retirement years as a talented artist, painting landscape scenes. He died in 1984 at age 90. Arno P carried on the practice until his own retirement in the late-1990s, and Dr. Craig Costanza took on the history of a caring and compassionate local solo practice that Arno M. Bommer started 100 years ago. “I thoroughly enjoyed the practice in Revere all those years,” says Dr. Arno P. Bommer. “The dentistry profession changed and grew in so many ways during that time.”
In a recent article published in the Massachusetts Dental Society magazine, Dr. Bommer noted how dental work has become more specialized, and general dentistry now emphasizes preventative care. Administratively, payment in the modern dental practice is handled through third-party insurance payers, and solo practices have diminished as group practices with a wide range of skilled specialties take their place.
Dr. Bommer stays active with the Massachusetts Dental Society, a group that both he and his father served as President during their careers. He and his wife Marilyn live in Peabody and spend the winter months in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Their two sons, Arno S. and Allan graduated MIT and their daughter Elizabeth graduated Boston College. “We’ve been very fortunate, very blessed,” he says. And he comes to Revere for dental care. As he perused the Wall Street Journal in Dr. Craig Costanza’s waiting room—(yes, even retired dentists wait their turn!)—Dr. Bommer reflected. “I’m glad the practice continues as it does. It’s important to serve the community.”
Craig Costanza agrees. One hundred years after it all began, Dr. Costanza is preserving Arno M. Bommer’s and Arno P. Bommer’s legacy of taking good care of the people of Revere.