Infinity Smiles hosted its grand opening in Charlotte last week. The Black-woman-owned dentistry is co-led by Dr. Briana Brazile and Dr. Tatyania Moorehead.
Why it matters: According to the American Dental Association, in 2022, Black people made up just 4% of the country’s dentists.
The duo opened Infinity Smiles at 8700 Pineville-Matthews Road, Suite 920, and say they want people to feel “more comfortable” with dental care. The dentists told QCity Metro their goal is for each interaction to be casual and conversational with their patients.
In a Q&A with QCity Metro, Dr. Brazile and Dr. Moorehead share why they opened Infinity Smiles, what it’s like for Black women in the dental industry, and how people can take charge of their dental health, despite insurance status.
Infinity Smiles is located at 8700 Pineville-Matthews Road, #920, Charlotte.
How did you two meet?
BB: I met Dr. Morehead in dental school at UNC Chapel Hill. We enjoyed doing a lot of similar things in regard to community service. We really connected on that level, and then after we graduated, we were both going back to the Charlotte area.
What influenced you to pursue dentistry?
BB: I love that with dentistry, you’re able to build relationships over time but also have a mixture of using your hands and [using] science, technology and advancements within the dental field, so you’re constantly learning and constantly changing. It’s a good mixture.
TM: I kind of knew I wanted to be a dentist when I was really young. I enjoyed going to the dentist as a kid. Most children don’t, but I, for whatever reason, did. One day when I was really young, I interviewed my dentist. It was a very minimal interview– more so like, ‘What do you do every day? Do you like your job?’ My dentist seemed really excited about his job, and he really enjoyed what he was doing, or at least from my 10-year-old point of view, that’s what it sounded like. From there, it kind of stuck.
I tried to [stray] from dentistry; I thought I wanted to go into different fields, like being a chef or being a veterinarian, but I realized that those really weren’t my true passions. So I always came back to dentistry and then when I got into high school, it just really stuck from there.
What made you want to open your own dental practice?
BB: We were working in different practices, but we realized the best way to provide the care that we wanted was to open our own. So, we’re a growing practice, and [we are] just excited to grow our legacy here.
TM: We really wanted to be able to tailor the care that we were giving without any boundaries. In other practices, if you’re just an employee of that practice, you kind of have to go along with the flow of what the practice, motto or vision is. In some practices, you definitely have a say, which is nice, but you can never truly tailor it to what your vision is. So just being able to tailor exactly what we want our patients to experience in our office has been amazing.
Black women are typically the minority in dental school. What was that like?
BB: I was one of three [Black women]. It was challenging, but I think I was blessed in that I sat right next to [the other Black women]. Our last names are right next to each other so we always sat together so it never felt like we were far. We oftentimes just vented about everything then. We would also just lean on the upperclassmen a lot anytime we had a break. So it was nice having that comfort system.
[Dental school can be] isolating; you’re trying to figure out so many different things that seem so foreign. Whereas your white counterparts may say, ‘My dad’s a dentist, or my mom’s a dentist,’ like all these legacy of dentists. I’m like, ‘Okay, how do I do XYZ?’ Just like the most basic of basic things and like trying to establish those building blocks for myself and not feeling like I’m asking a dumb question.
TM: My class is a little bit of an anomaly we have five [Black women] in my class out of 85 students. For me, it was really good to have that support system. We all really got along and were friends throughout the entire dental school experience. We saw in other classes that they either didn’t have many other Black women in their class or they just didn’t mesh as well. But at the same time, you could feel that you were a minority. So that in and of itself was also really tough. I went to an HBCU for undergrad, so transitioning to a PWI for dental school or graduate school was a little difficult. But that support system of having four other females that were like me was helpful.
Does either of you have any advice for those looking to become a dentist?
BB: Find a mentor and lean on them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask hey, can we get coffee, [you] just need to have a conversation. It’s nice to be in a space where you can ask questions or nice to be in a space where you can at least get some form of guidance. Once you accept that [dental school] is a long journey, it doesn’t feel like 10 years at all. But it goes by so fast, and the skill set that you acquire for the rest of your life is priceless. So try not to be discouraged by the length of time. Just know that on the other end, you’re acquiring skills that you can use or that you’re just going to compound on.
Are black people predisposed to any oral diseases or problems?
BB: A primary one that we see almost every day is gum disease, especially if they’re more at risk of hypertension or diabetes. [Those are] directly correlated with having or being at risk for gum disease. That’s why we really, really, really encourage everyone comes to the dentist at least twice a year so that we’re able to assess your gum health because it’s connected to everything else in the body.
If you could give patients only one piece of dental advice from now on, what would it be?
BB: I would say brush and floss. Cheap in the form of maintenance, especially if you can’t afford to go to the dentist. It will help way more than you know.
Does either of you have any practical advice for those that can’t afford dental care?
TM: It’s actually a big misconception that you have to have dental insurance in order to go to the dentist. That’s just really not the case. If you’re in a specific area, I would try and reach out to the providers and see if they have like a membership plan where you can get your exams, your cleanings and your X-rays at a discounted rate for the entire year. That’s how our office does it. There are several different free clinics available as well, especially in Charlotte. There are also a bunch of public health facilities that also offer discounted treatment. And then also another thing would be like apply for Medicaid and see if you’re able to get that coverage.
TM: Anything with fluoride. Crest.
BB: Fluoride is amazing.
Do you have any advice for anyone struggling to maintain regular dental hygiene?
TM: Starting somewhere gives you a really long way. Brushing at least one time at night will give you a long way. Give yourself as many small wins or small goals to get to a place where you’re able to brush two times and floss at least once.
Is it important to have more diversity among dentists? Why?
BB: Yes, it is. There are so many patients that we hear from that say, ‘It’s so comfortable talking to you, I feel so I feel like home talking to you, I feel like I’m talking to my aunt or talking to a family member.’ We want patients to feel comfortable so that they feel like they understand the treatment needs.