Written by: Lauren Krouse || Photography by Soriano Photography
At the end of a line of neighborly houses on the corner of Market and 16th streets, Sandra Miles Family Dentistry would be easy to mistake for another home if it weren’t for the bright white and blue wooden sign in the yard. Dappled in the shade of live oaks and holly trees, this building has been home to Dr. Miles’ practice since 1996.
She’s wearing a royal blue shirt with a pawprint and “Adopt” printed on it. Dr. Miles and her team, many of whom have been working with Dr. Miles for over a decade, wear different matching shirts each day for a cause of their choice.
“It’s better than scrubs!” she says.
The waiting room has chestnut tables and burgundy seating, with baskets of children’s toys ready to be pulled out. The cold, bright-light clinical feel of most dental offices is markedly absent from the room.
“I want it to be comfortable out here when patients come in,” Dr. Miles says. “I don’t like it to look stark or bland.”
In the corner, a case displays Dr. Miles’ teapot collection. On the walls, intermingled with magazine and dental brochure displays, are photos of the office’s resident chihuahuas, Gracie and Lola. Dr. Miles adopted them eight years ago, and she’s been bringing them in to greet and reassure patients ever since. Sometimes patients bring their own dogs in, too.
In the hallway to the treatment area, a bulletin board displays cards, thank-you notes, photos of friends, and dentistry-themed newspaper comic clippings. The walls are lined with framed certificates and plaques.
Dr. Miles is a member of the ADA and the North Carolina Dental Society, a past board member with the Public Health Department, and the former President of the Cape Fear Dental Study Club. She was a member of the New Hanover County Board of Health for nine years and served as the chairperson in 2005. During her tenure, she helped set up the Miles of Smiles Mobile Dental Unit which provides dental services to thousands of children without dental insurance in New Hanover and Brunswick Counties. She’s also volunteered with NC Missions of Mercy to provide free dental healthcare to adults.
As Dr. Miles says, “It’s all gratifying when you do it because people are so appreciative.”
Of course, she works hard for the community on an everyday basis.
“If somebody comes in with an emergency, we don’t say no,” she says. “Obviously if someone needs something, we’re here, and we appreciate helping them.”
Sandra Miles Family Dentistry provides emergency dentistry as well as routine checkups, composite fillings and bonding, bridges, and cosmetic services like whitening, veneers, and crowns. Dr. Miles also helps patients dealing with pain from TMJ. She and her team see upwards of 20 patients a day.
As a member of the Academy of Computerized Dentistry, Dr. Miles uses the most advanced technology for her patients, including digital x-ray technology and CAD-CAM technology, which allows for one-visit crowns, inlays, onlays, and veneers. The CAESY patient education program answers patients’ questions about procedures so that they feel fully prepared and comfortable with their personal dentistry decisions.
Going to Sandra Miles Family Dentistry feels like going to a dentist’s office run by someone who understands how to make one of the most uncomfortable situations comfortable. Dr. Miles herself never saw the dentist’s office as a dreaded place to go. Even as a child, the sound of nails on a chalkboard did nothing to shake her, so the drill never bothered her either.
“I should have seen that as a sign,” she says and laughs. “I’ve always liked my dentist. I’ve always liked going to the dentist, and I’ve never been a fearful dental person.”
Because Miles understands fearful dental types, though, she tries to treat them with a calming demeanor.
“I understand their psyche,” she says. “I get it. So anytime they’re uncomfortable I will make sure to stop and fix whatever the issue is. I’ll talk people through it.”
Having a friendly chihuahua sitting on your lap doesn’t hurt, either, and Gracie and Lola are always on call.
Each treatment room has its own whimsical mural and theme, from a blue room with a bright sunflower to a darker room under the sea. One room’s large window overlooks the office’s courtyard garden, beautifully manicured with tropical bushes and a red brick walkway.
Dr. Miles first saw her future in dentistry through the window of a biochemistry research lab. As she says, “Right over there, from my lab window, you can see the dental school. God was putting it in front of my face so that I could see it. Hello! This is what I want to do!”
When she began talking to a dental student, she realized something: “Everything that I had on my list of what I wanted in a career seemed to fit. I was just like, look at this! It fits!”
As a dentist, she could be her own boss, start a family, and take care of other people. And that’s exactly what she did. In the next 20 years, Dr. Miles envisions herself continuing to do what she does best, perhaps with a new partner. Dr. Miles’ daughter Jaimee was just accepted into dental school, Class of 2022 at UNC in Chapel Hill.