True Partnership: Couples Balance Dentistry And Marriage

Drs. Andrew and Joya Lyons are founders of Smile Savvy Cosmetic Dentistry in Charlotte. They met as students at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Who said you can’t work with your spouse?

Two Black-owned dental practices in Charlotte are run by married couples who deliver bright smiles. The key to making it work is keeping God first in their relationship and business ventures.

“Our foundation is God. Everything starts with Him,” said Dr. Lorette Polite-Young, co-owner of Young and Polite Children’s Dentistry. “That’s how it’s been able to sustain and flourish.”

The owners of Smile Savvy Cosmetic Dentistry stand on the motto of “God, our marriage, and our family, and then work — in that order,” according to Dr. Joya Lyons, who with Dr. Andrew Lyons, opened the practice in 2014 while she was pregnant with their daughter Brielle.

The original goal was for Joya to work at the clinic while on maternity leave by doing an associateship.

“I always say it was God ordained because I couldn’t find anywhere to work that matched where I wanted to work,” she said. “It just was nothing out there and then it was like ‘well, I might as well just come and work in this office while I’m on maternity leave and kind of get my feet wet back into practicing dentistry’ and I have been here ever since.”

At first, the Lyons were hesitant about working with each other after hearing people say it was not a good idea, but eventually reassured themselves they could make it work since they studied together while attending Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We always say how do you marry somebody that you couldn’t work with,” Andrew said. “I mean, think about it. You’re going to do life with them.”  

The Lyons have been married for 12 years. In addition to 9-year-old Brielle, they have a 4-year-old son Andrew III, aka Trace.

Smile Savvy focuses on improving adults’ oral health through dental implants, teeth whitening, veneers, and other cosmetic procedures.  

Like the Lyons, the Youngs met in college – Howard University – where they studied pediatric dentistry. Prior to starting their practice in 2007, Polite worked as a pharmacist and Young taught math and science to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Their practice, which includes locations in Waxhaw, University area, and Steele Creek, serves all children, including adolescents with special needs. When you walk into the University location, the front desk has three-dimensional figures of a polar bear and a penguin on ice as well as animal footprints on the floor. It doesn’t look like a dental office at all.

“When you come in, I’ve had people say, ‘is this Chuck E, Cheese? What is this,” Young said. “We just wanted to do something really, really nice for a kid and so we want to create magical experiences.”

One of the goals of their dental practice is to treat all children as if they were their own. They offer cool incentives for their young patients. For instance, rewarding them with prizes for not having any cavities or for making good grades.

Young focuses on patient education and pediatric orthodontics across the practice.

“Whenever you give allergy medicines like Zyrtec and Benadryl, then that tends to dry the mouth out,” he explained. The drying of the mouth, the more prone you are to get cavities. Kids who have asthma, kids who have allergies, especially seasonal allergies, are more prone or more susceptible to getting cavities than the normal kid who does not.”

On the other hand, Polite-Young serves children with rapid decay, or who have more than five cavities and need full mouth rehabilitation. The procedure is completed in a hospital setting while the patient is sedated.

“I enjoy doing that because I feel like I’m doing a service to the family by helping them,” she said.

Drs. Robert Young and Lorette Polite-Young, owners of Young and Polite Children’s Dentistry. They met as students at Howard University.

With a practice so big, it is rare for Young and Polite, who have been married 22 years and have four children, to work together at the same clinic. However, they communicate throughout the day on work-related matters.

One thing both couples agree on is cleaning teeth and the importance of oral health.

A smile contributes greatly to lifting a person’s confidence and is the first thing people see.

“We’ve noticed over the years doing the smile makeovers, confidence comes opportunities,” Joya Lyons said. “Our patients are saying, I don’t take opportunities because of my smile, and I want a new smile. I want to feel confident.”

The good thing about working with your spouse is that you not only work together but you are able to identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the line of work.
“I’m definitely more visionary, very future oriented, very intuitive,” said Andrew.

“In terms of business, I’m a numbers person,” added Joya, who manages the business budget and leads the practice.

In 2022, Joya started a separate business called Enchanted Traditions that makes children’s storybooks, toys, and merchandise all while keeping family traditions alive. In February, Enchanted Traditions launched The Enchanted Tooth Box and a children’s book she authored called “The Tooth Fairy and The Enchanted Tooth Box.”

The Enchanted Tooth Box is a mechanical keepsake box she invented for the “tooth fairy” – parents – to use to swap out the child’s tooth for a gift while everyone in the household sleeps.
“We’ve had orders from different places in the United States of people ordering that I didn’t know,” Joya said.

The best advice the Lyons recommend for couples going into business together is remembering you’re on the same team.

“We believe every marriage has a brand,” said Andrew. “Figure out what do you stand for together and then I think from there, you can figure out okay, what are our core values? How do we want to present and show up for our customers?”

Aaliyah Bowden, who covers health for The Post, is a Report For America corps member.


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