I was born and raised in a metropolitan city

in the north of India. My city Chandigarh, also known as the “city beautiful” was designed by a French architect and is one of the most well planned cities of the country. I completed my elementary and high school education at an all-girls’ catholic school where an influential teacher encouraged me to consider a profession that incorporated the arts and my hand skills. Growing up with aspirations of becoming a doctor, at the time dentistry with its perfect blend of art and science balanced my academic interest. This led me to pursue my dental education at a Dental College close to home where I completed a 5-year program, graduating in 2013 with a Bachelors of Dental Surgery Degree.

While I was in Dental school, I travelled across the country and abroad for various dental conventions and presentations for my research projects. I often took trips to the United States for various externships geared towards dentistry for adults and children with special needs, Periodontics and Advanced Education in General Dentistry. During these experiences, I was introduced to the continuous technological advancements in dentistry, with new materials and increased patient comfort. I was specifically impressed with the fields of prosthetic rehabilitation such as digital impressions and same day crown deliveries. I also experienced a great drift of patient perception of dental care and their willingness to get fixed replacement teeth such as bridges and implants in contract to the extractions and dentures I was used to in a rural health care set up in India. This encouraged me to broaden my dental skills and knowledge to keep pace with the advancing trends in dentistry and influenced my ambitions to pursue an advanced dental education here in the United States.

Soon after graduating from Dental School in India,

I worked at a community dental clinic and postgraduate institute of Dental Sciences to further enrich my skills along with helping people in need, while I applied for Advanced Standing Dental Programs in the United States. In 2014, I finally boarded a plane to live a dream. This was not the first time I was taking this particular flight, but the bag of cookies and Dr. Pepper felt so foreign—yet so my own—for the first time.  I started the International Student Program at the University of Colorado School of Dental in the spring semester amidst the sheer cold of the early snow of that year, the one that I was experiencing for the first time ever. As I unpacked into my cozy little apartment, I experienced emotions of immense sadness to live without my family for the first time ever and excitement to start this new phase of independent living. With the help of constant support from friends and colleagues, in no time my apartment became home and I found myself a new family—“the International Student Program family.” One of the biggest challenges we all faced as International students, was to see our families grow and parents getting older over FaceTime and Skype, but the thought that we are here and able to do better for them brought us all pleasure.

The fast paced advanced standing program did not only include high quality dental education catering to all aspects of surgical, restorative, rehabilitative and maintenance therapies, but also fostered a lot of cultural emotions, humanity and learning of social and psychological behaviors behind different cultures. That multiculturalism drove the spirit of our Advanced Standing program. Among the multitude of continuous tests and requirements, one of hardest but most rewarding things to learn was pain management and controlling the anxiety of the patients who came in with pain or anticipation of pain during a procedure. It is one of the most invaluable skills I learnt in Dental School and cherish to date. My journey as a dental student has been pretty unique in providing me dental training in two different countries over a period of 7 years. I learnt a lot about practice of dentistry and patient management including behavior modification techniques and soft skills. I graduated with an induction into the dental honor society: Omicron Kappa Upsilon, which has come to represent one of the highest honors attainable within the dental profession. Consideration for nomination included high scholarship and subjective factors such as character, potential for leadership, professionalism and ethics. It gives me immense pride to be recognized for my outstanding accomplishments and encourages me to reflect this in my patient care. Graduation day didn’t mark an end, but a beginning of the real lessons that were yet to come and gave me an opportunity to work in a private practice in Austell, GA.

At my practice, I thoroughly enjoy working with patients of all age groups but working with children and geriatric patients is my favorite part of the day. I largely perform restorative dental work and dental surgeries such as fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions and minor oral surgeries. Root canal treatment fascinates me the most as it gives me an opportunity to eliminate disease and infection from an individual’s body and helps establish health and esthetics of the tooth, along with restoring an individual’s general well being.

Running a dental practice involves a lot of compassion for health care

administrative as well as managerial leadership. Along with being a great administrative as well as managerial leadership. Along with being a great clinician, I have evolved as a businesswoman and a great team leader. Managing a dental practice as a sole dentist right out of Dental school was not easy but with the support of my team, I have significantly increased the profitability of my current practice along with incorporating specialized aspects such as catering dental care for patients with special needs such as multiple comorbidities, especially who have specific diseases such as hepatitis, HIV and mental / physical disabilities. There remains a dire need for such services in private practice settings and their wide presence in the society.

The practice of dentistry also has its challenges

It can be challenging for people to comprehend to the correlation of oral health to general health. Most people believe that an infection only exists if it is painful and if there is an infection in the mouth it stays there. From the current evidence base in literature we have now come to a conclusion that, infections cause inflammation. Inflammation is considered to be a direct link to systemic illnesses, like diabetes, and an even greater contributor to clogging of arteries than cholesterol. It is also known that women with uncontrolled oral infection have a much higher chance of the premature births and low birth weight. The elderly and infirmed can get aspiration pneumonia by inhaling these germs into their lungs. Additionally, many of our patients also think that dentistry is painful and expensive. At my practice I try to encourage patients towards preventive dental care such as sealants, fluoride treatments, and emphasize that prevention is better than cure, fairly inexpensive and absolutely painless.  We have great witness to the fact that neglect in the early stages of disease significantly increases dental care costs. Even after all these challenges in the practice of Dentistry, I feel so blessed to be in this great profession that gives me an opportunity to not only see beautiful smiles at the end of the day but also experience accomplishment from improving someone’s self-esteem, lifestyle and provide pain relief at the same time. A short-term pleasure of getting patients out of pain is followed by a long term satisfaction in knowing that I have hopefully changed their experience and perception of the dental profession.

In a few years from now, I see myself developing practices specifically catering to kids and adults with special needs by offering sedation and behavior management techniques for these patients. Dentistry in the past few years has evolved from a healthcare cottage industry to a customer service driven commodity, and I strive to deliver the value of the care of the patients. I aspire to maintain the prestige of this profession by being a great clinician along with contributing to the upliftment of the profession by continuing active participation in the American Dental Association Legislature. I would eventually in the path of my career look forward to mentoring and teaching dental students to give back to my profession what I received from it. I am truly blessed to be part of this esteemed dental community.

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Dr. Saniya Setia is a full-time dentist in Atlanta at Austell Family Dental Care, having just finished dental school in the United States, but being originally from India. As a dentist and former international student she was one of the youngest to be appointed to the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Society.

1 COMMENT

  1. Saniya, Thank you for sharing your experience and enthusiasm for our profession. I sincerely hope others will follow your lead. Keep DeWing YOU!

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