Meet Dr. La Toya C. Morris, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. Dr. Morris was born and raised in Inglewood, California, and attended St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey. It was during her senior year of high school that she decided to go into the health care industry.

After receiving her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Morris returned to California and was awarded her California dental license. Today she heads her Los Angeles practice, La Toya C. Morris DDS Inc.

Dr. Morris has sought out the latest trends and developments in the dental field and continually adapts cutting-edge techniques. Her priority is offering family-like hospitality, and her goal is to improve not only her patients’ smiles but also their lives through a great experience and education they can take home with them.

Dr. Morris volunteers her time and experience to organizations that care for underserved patients, and donates one week each year to a health clinic that provides care to the less fortunate. Let’s see what else Dr. Morris has been up to.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

I decided to become a dentist while I was in high school. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be in health care. I recall sitting on the stairs in our home with my sister and best friend. My sister was reading Black Enterprise magazine, and the issue featured the top 10 professions for that month. My sister mentioned that dentistry was a great profession for women because you could work regular hours and be home in the evening with your family. In other words, unlike a physician, you didn’t have to be on call or spend many hours in the hospital.

How long have you been practicing?

I’ve been practicing dentistry for 21 years.

What is the most rewarding part of your career?

The most rewarding parts of my career are (1) helping people get out of pain, (2) helping patients gain confident smiles and (3) educating patients on good oral health habits to promote excellent oral hygiene.

One of the funniest stories from the dental office?

One of the funniest stories in the dental office is when, after I administered anesthesia to a patient, she asked if I was done. I replied yes and left the room to allow the anesthesia to take effect. In the meantime, I performed an exam in another room. When I returned, the patient I anesthetized was gone. I asked the front office assistant where the patient was, and she replied, “She said you told her she was done.”

We still laugh about this scenario. We called the patient on her cellphone, and I told her that I was only done with her injections and she needed to return to finish treatment. We laughed because the patient told us that all she could think about was treatment being finished. She had to reschedule.

I learned a lesson from that. To make sure patients aren’t confused, I now say, “We’re only finished with giving you anesthesia. We’ll let the medication take effect and I’ll return to complete your treatment.”

What do you consider dentistry’s biggest challenge?

Dentistry’s biggest challenge is getting patients to relax in the dental chair. Each patient is different. Many have had traumatic experiences or have heard horror stories about going to the dentist.

Surprisingly, some adult patients have also mentioned they weren’t brought up going to the dentist and wish their parents had made it a priority. It appears their parents didn’t understand the importance, and these patients realize they could have avoided many of the dental issues they’re facing.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my daughter and spending time with our family and friends. I also enjoy nature walks, hikes, relaxing at the beach, reading novels, traveling, going to concerts, seeing plays, movies, playing games and eating out.

During Black History Month, we like to ask our partners whether they have a historical African-American figure they admire. Do you have one?

The one historical African-American figure I admire is my dad because he had integrity and was disciplined, hardworking and ambitious. Growing up, I saw these qualities in my dad and how others around him had the utmost respect for him. He was admired, trusted and complimented by many people. My dad had a heart of gold and was loved by all who knew him. Again, as a young child, seeing these qualities in both my parents made me want to have the same characteristics.

The lessons I learned from them influence my work today. I have a huge appreciation for life and want to help others. Getting up in the morning to get ready for work, I know I have a purpose. I like to assure my patients that I’m here for their dental needs. I’m passionate about what I do, and I try to give each patient the undivided attention needed to create the treatment plan that’s most beneficial for their oral care. Most importantly, listening to a patient’s chief complaint and addressing it before proceeding with their other treatment is a priority to me.

My thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book Where Do We Go from Here is, as African-Americans, I recognize that we’re very much underrepresented in the dental field. In the past, I’ve volunteered and spoken with students about choosing dentistry as a career, and high school students volunteer in our office to learn more about the field. My doors are open to anyone considering dentistry as a career path. I like to encourage my patients — and everyone else — to consider the dental profession.

We’d like to congratulate Dr. La Toya C. Morris and thank her for her volunteer service. To find out more about Dr. Morris, visit her website.