Dr. Catrise Austin (AKA The Queen of Smile) is a cosmetic dentist who helps people achieve the smiles of their dreams. She opened up about what it’s been like to work with celebrities — such as rapper Cardi B — and what people should know before receiving treatment to improve their smile.
What made you want to get into dentistry? What do you enjoy the most about it?
When I was growing up, I was not confident about my smile, my teeth were spaced out, they flared out. And I frequently got called Bugs Bunny and all kinds of embarrassing names that hurt my feelings. And I kind of became an introvert because of my smile.
My mom, knowing how my smile kind of held me back in life, decided to surprise me with the braces I always wanted. And she was a single parent working for General Motors, but she knew how important that was for me. I wore my braces for about a year, and I will tell you when those braces came off, I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world. My confidence skyrocketed.
I got my first boyfriend, I had the confidence to join the dance squad. I even won Prettiest Smile in high school my senior year. So that experience of transforming my smile made me want to be a dentist — I felt like this feeling, this confidence that I have, I’ve got to spread that to other people. And I knew right then that I wanted to be a dentist.
What is it like to work with celebrities and help them achieve perfect smiles?
It’s a lot of pressure, but I feel that same pressure with every client I work with.
When I worked with Cardi B in 2016, she had so much hate on social media, and her star power was rising. So many people were talking about her unattractive smile. I knew that when I worked with her, she was on a TV show at the time that was gonna be seen by a lot of people.
So there was lots of pressure. I had to do the best job possible, and it happened to work out really well with her, and it became TMZ news. Everybody was talking about it. I was in Billboard magazine. I mean, it was a big deal.
So, I was super excited that it worked out, and she wears the new smile very well. I’m up for the challenge, because I know I can do the job and I can slam dunk those smiles. When I see my work on red carpets or on the covers of magazines, I’m like, “Yeah, I did that.”
What would you recommend for patients who are interested in improving their smile?
The first thing is to not count yourself out. I get a lot of people who DM me and they say “I want a new smile, but I can’t afford it.” I tell them to just take the first steps of finding out what it would take to get a new smile and what their options are.
A lot of times these cosmetic things are not covered by insurance, like any other major purchase. I encourage people embarking on a journey to a new smile to plan for it, save for it, and have good credit. You could get financing for it like we do for our cars and houses. And then you may be able to get that smile of your dreams.
There are actually other resources, like dental schools. A friend that went to NYU dental school and got his veneers for like $2,500. And they’re great. His smile was great. So there are options.
That’s why I’m kind of acting as a smile coach now, and guiding people to know what their options are. Because a lot of people just don’t know.
You have a great social media presence, which you use to share oral health advice. Why is it important for people to be educated about oral health?
Because oral health truly matters. Our mouths are not disconnected from the rest of our bodies. And we know that there are connections between your oral health and your overall health.
The bacteria that forms in your mouth can travel through your bloodstream. And if you have a compromised health history, you can have a heart attack, you can have a stroke, it can progress your diabetes. There’s so many things that oral health affects in terms of your total health, I believe that everyone needs to know.
I am proud that I am one of the doctors on social media that people can turn to. When I get home at 9 o’clock, I’m like, “I need to go live and do a live q&a just to see what kind of questions people have.” I want to be that resource, because there are not a lot of media outlets that talk about oral health as frequently as it should be discussed.
So, if I can be that vehicle to spread the information, to give them resources, to talk to live, to give them ebooks and books and webinars and all the things that I’ve created to educate, I’m very happy to do so, and I’m going to keep doing it. I’m just getting started.