Endodontist Dr. Sonia Chopra knows that oral health is everything because when our mouth isn’t healthy and is experiencing infections, our whole bodies suffer.
Dr. Chopra knows this personally because she isn’t just an endodontist; she’s the ultimate dental patient. Born without eight teeth, she experienced everything: fillings, root canals, extractions, braces, implants, bridges, veneers, and grafts. You name it, she’s had it.
But when she was in college, a new, excruciating pain emerged. Her dentist searched for the source of her pain with no success. Then he referred her to specialist after specialist, but no one could identify it. He sent her to an oral surgeon to have the tooth pulled. But when she woke up from the extraction procedure, she was still in terrible pain; she had been misdiagnosed, and a perfectly healthy tooth was gone.
It wasn’t until she was referred to a compassionate endodontist who correctly diagnosed her and explained every step of her root canal and why she needed it that her pain disappeared.
This experience shaped her entire career and inspired her to become an endodontist. After her own complicated dental history, she sees herself as more than a diagnostician and technician for her patients. Sonia is their dental health counselor and advisor. She takes extra time with patients to make sure she understands their concerns. She walks them through her recommendations and everything they can expect from their treatment so that they can be empowered, knowledgeable, and calm.
She believes in sharing knowledge with the dental community because this ultimately serves patients better. That’s why she created E-School, the first online endodontic continuing education course. Plus, she regularly speaks at professional events. She loves to travel and spend time with her husband and three beautiful children when she’s not treating patients or teaching dentists about endodontics.
Please tell us a bit about our oral health. Why is it important?
There is a reason we were born with teeth! Our mouth is the gateway to our body, and our teeth are important for our health. Several studies have shown that gum infections can lead to heart disease or exaggerate diabetes. Your gut and overall health can go hand-in-hand, so eating a good diet is also good for your teeth—and having healthy teeth means eating a nutritious diet!
What are those healthy foods?
Nothing out of the ordinary for good gut health: eggs, fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, and fermented foods. That includes eating rich sources of vitamins D, A, and K2.
Nobody wants to go to the dentist any more than they have to, right? And let’s face it; no dentist will do anything to keep you tied to their chairs! Most of them will do things to keep you out!
Now, how do we do that?
Brushing your teeth seems like an obvious attitude, and the importance of flossing every single day can’t be overstated. But the first thing to do is pay attention to what’s happening with your teeth!
Why do many people not pay attention to it? What are the consequences of it?
Well, the first obvious consequence is more visits to the dentist and more money spent. Many surveys find cost as the first reason people avoid dentists.
And yes, it can be expensive! Though there is a reason why it costs too much. The best thing we can do to prevent paying high costs is prevention. Many people don’t realize that teeth are really important for overall health!
Our mouth is an ecosystem of good and bad bacteria. If we don’t take care of it, bad bacteria will overgrow and cause problems. Not just to your mouth, but they can exaggerate diabetes or heart diseases. It all starts with your mouth, and that’s why I call it the gateway to our bodies.
How do we save our teeth?
Brushing our teeth can be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about prevention. We usually do that in the mornings to prevent bad breath. But a lot of people forget to brush at night, too! Nights are important because that is when our saliva that keeps bad bacteria at bay diminishes.
So, if we go to sleep with all the bacteria we accumulate during the day from food or other sources, our mouth might have a hard time keeping its healthy ecosystem.
Let’s say you are traveling, and you forgot your toothpaste! Well, guess what? Toothpaste is secondary, and brushing is the real thing that keeps your teeth’s ecosystem moving! So, dry brushing is okay for a day if toothpaste is not available because it does the valuable job of breaking up bacteria colonies on your teeth.
Flossing can save you a lot of visits to the dentist and a lot of root canals too. The bacteria that accumulate between the contact points between your teeth are one of the main causes of infection. And it’s impossible to get into those tight spots with anything else—even a manual or electric toothbrush, or a Waterpik.
The next thing to consider for saving your teeth is when to get an extraction versus a root canal. If your dentist tells you that you need an extraction, I encourage you to advocate for your health and ask an endodontist whether a root canal could be a better move. That will allow you to save your natural tooth, bite, and smile. There are times when an extraction is the only possibility, but you owe it to yourself to save that for a last resort—and these days, modern-day technology gives patients better outcomes with root canals, so they’re definitely worth exploring as a great option.
Life is a balancing act: the cost of an extraction or a root canal versus the cost of a pack of floss. If you need a root canal, though, you might be unsure of where to go.
And who are endodontists?
We endodontists are highly skilled dental specialists in diagnosing and treating tooth pain and performing root canal treatment. By limiting our practice to endodontics, we focus exclusively on treatments of the dental pulp. We complete an average of 25 root canal treatments weekly, while general dentists typically do two. Endodontists don’t place fillings or clean teeth — we dedicate our time to diagnosing and treating tooth pain. We are skilled specialists in finding the cause of oral and facial pain that is difficult to diagnose.
While all endodontists are dentists, less than three percent of dentists are endodontists, according to the American Association of Endodontists. Endodontists use specialized techniques to ensure patients are thoroughly comfortable during their treatments. We are experts in administering numbing medications, especially in patients who traditionally have problems getting and staying numb.
Best of all, we relieve our patients of tooth pain after their root canal procedure when the pulp infection or inflammation heals. Endodontists have modern materials and equipment designed to make your treatment more comfortable and successful. We use a small sheet of plastic or rubber called a dental dam to isolate the tooth during treatment, protecting the rest of your mouth.
Digital radiographs and 3-D imaging allows endodontists to take detailed pictures of tiny tooth anatomy to better see the root canals and any related infections. The space inside your tooth’s canals is smaller than FDR’s ear on the dime! Endodontists use dental operating microscopes to better see inside the root canals to thoroughly treat them.
How do I know when I need to go to an endodontist?
Think of it like a doctor. If you go to your primary care doctor, they’re a knowledgeable generalist in human health. But if you need heart surgery, they’ll refer you to a cardiologist.
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In the same way, the dentist you go to for cleanings is a generalist, and they rely on a collaborative network of dental specialists to go to when you have a specific need. When it’s time for a root canal or another endodontic procedure, your dentist will often refer you to an endodontist to ensure you’re well-cared for. It may be frustrating to get established with a specialist when you already have a dentist, but understanding that their expertise can be exactly what you need is both necessary and empowering.