Dr. Austin (264836)

July is National Minority Mental Health Month, and Dr. Catrise Austin is on a mission to educate African-Americans about the link between mental health and dental health. This mission is personal. Austin said she was self-conscious about her smile growing up. She was teased and called “Bugs Bunny” by other children.

When she was 16, her mother took her to get braces and it changed her life.

“I was like a new person,” said Austin, who was recently in Los Angeles for a video shoot at YouTube.  

Her positive experience with braces guided her to a career in dentistry. She has been working in the dental field in New York for 20 years.

She said taking care of your teeth is important because people can be very judgmental about dental problems.

“Not being confident in your smile, can be quite depressing,” she said.

Depression can lead to late-night snacking on high-sugar, comfort foods — which only creates more dental problems, she said.

However, Austin added that dentistry is not just a cosmetic issue. Poor dental health can lead to other problems such as bacteria and plaque that can travel to other parts of the body and cause heart disease and cancer.

Working in New York, Austin is also known as “the Queen of Smiles.” Some of her clients have included Malik Yoba, Anthony Anderson, Wendy Williams, DJ Khaled, A$AP Rocky and Omarosa.  She also worked with Mona Scott-Young, TV producer of the “Love & Hip Hop” reality shows, who introduced her to several other clients in the entertainment field.

And she worked with rapper Cardi B, after she was criticized on social media for her dental problems. This was featured on “Love and Hip Hop.”

Austin isn’t just a dentist. She’s an entrepreneur who’s also branching out to other areas of the dental field such as her own line of toothbrushes, her own teeth whitening product, VIP Smiles, and a book called “The Ultimate Guide to Charcoal Teeth Whitening.” She’s hoping her toothbrushes will catch on in the dental field.

“The goal is to get other dentists to see the value in it,” said Austin, who describes herself as “the Dr. Oz of Dentistry.”

Austin is also active on social media and plans to launch a series of podcasts on dental health.

Her major piece of advice for African Americans is “Don’t underestimate your smile.” She also said that people shouldn’t let money be an issue. There are many programs for low-income people through the American Dental Association or dental schools, who want to provide training for their students. The Smiles for Success Foundation also provides dental care for women who are trying to transition from welfare into the workforce.

“Don’t let money be a barrier,” said Austin.