Husband & Wife Dentists Inspired by Son to Bring Accessible Oral Health to South Carolina
Dr. Loray Spencer says her 7-year-old, who has special needs, prompted her focus on person-centered care.
Drs. Loray and Harvey Spencer opened their dental practice, A Healthy Smile Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, in rural South Carolina nearly five years ago with a simple mission in mind: to make dental care available to anyone at any time. They’ve tailored their practice in countless ways — from expanded office hours to in-depth patient education — to ensure oral health is accessible to every person who walks through their doors. The inspiration behind their inclusive work? Dr. Loray Spencer explains it started with their 7-year-old son, Trey.
According to national research, dentists and physicians agree that access to preventive dentistry is key when it comes to improving overall health. At A Healthy Smile, Dr. Loray and her husband are putting Preventistry® into action every day — ensuring preventative care is available to entire families at times that work for them.
How is A Healthy Smile different from dental clinics you’ve worked for in the past — and from others in the area today?
Here we focus on seeing the whole family and making that as convenient as possible. Everyone can come in at one time — parents, their kids, their grandmas — and we try to be a one-stop-shop. We’re one of the few offices in the area that accept both child and adult Medicaid, and we don’t cap it. A lot of offices offer a limited timeframe for when they see Medicaid patients (like on Wednesday between this time and this time). We make sure anyone can come in, no matter what your situation. Also, it’s important for us to support working families, so we have evening hours so patients don’t have to take their kids out of school or miss as much work. Getting preventive — or restorative — oral health care should not come at the cost of anything else in our lives.
What’s your greatest influence or inspiration as you go to work at A Healthy Smile?
My husband and I practice every day the values our parents taught us both. My father used to say, “Treat everyone with respect.” We know at the end of every day that we’ve done the right thing, that we’ve done the best treatment and that we haven’t stereotyped anyone. Our son, who is 7 years old, has special needs, and we know what we’ve experienced with him when seeking care — we never want anyone to feel like that.
He motivates us: Because of him, we see a lot of special needs kids, and not a lot of offices in South Carolina do. Sometimes it’s because dentists are afraid and shy away from it, and sometimes it’s because those patients may require hospital sedation to get dental treatment. Patients feel comfortable here and they know their kids are treated well and with respect. They’re not getting that elsewhere — the whole system could improve everyone’s health and wellbeing by putting people first.
Is there a patient who stands out when you think of all you’ve accomplished these last five years?
We gave this one little girl a complete smile makeover — it was amazing. We had to have a tough conversation with her mom, a single mother with several kids, and really educate her about oral health. I know with her schedule that she was working multiple jobs and relying on family members and friends to watch the kids, but the little girl, who was 3 or 4, was on a regular diet of candy and soda. And she was hurting — she had multiple abscesses. Seeing children dealing with the impact of sugar is the norm for us. People think that just happens to Medicaid patients, but it’s in every demographic — parents putting their kids to bed with juice or even milk, and the sugar just destroys these toddlers’ teeth. But after we explained to the mom, “This isn’t healthy and it’s avoidable,” and educated her about important changes, she brought her daughter in consistently. Dr. Harvey reconstructed her daughter’s mouth, and the education was a huge part of that — ensuring they maintain good oral health as a family moving forward.Read more stories about Preventists changing their communities and learn more about the future of oral health at Preventistry.org.