Dr. Teertha Karnakar, Up Close & Personal
Dr. Teertha Karnakar brings to Dr. Michael’s Dental Clinic her years of training and experience in orthodontics. She specializes in fixed orthodontic treatments using the latest self-ligating systems such as the Smart clip (3M) and the Damon system, and is a certified provider of Incognito™ Braces, Invisalign®, Inman Aligner and ClearPath Aligner.
Out of all the many fields of dentistry, why did you choose Orthodontics?
Being a second-generation orthodontist, I grew up watching my father transform smiles with braces. I remember this one particular incident when a man, much older than my father, touched his feet and cried. It was because his daughter, who was rejected several times owing to her gummy smile, was finally getting married after her orthodontic treatment. I also vividly remember this other incident, where a young aspiring airhostess was rejected by a top airline company because of her crooked teeth and how just within a year of orthodontic intervention she was able to land the same job. These, and several other incidents showed me how powerful a beautiful smile can be and how important it is to our personalities, self-confidence, health, relationships and success. And I wanted to be able to do just that – create beautiful smiles. So at 18 when I joined dental school I was pretty much focused on becoming an orthodontist.
What do you like most about being an orthodontist?
Orthodontics is extremely challenging and that’s what I love the most about it. Unlike other fields of dentistry you can see the results only after a year or sometimes longer because that’s how long your teeth take to move. Hence it’s important to have a proper treatment plan in hand because one wrong step might take months to rectify.
It has a bit of Physics - because you need to calculate how every degree of bend you put into that wire will affect tooth movement. It has a bit of Chemistry -because the new generation of orthodontic wires have varied properties, did you know that some of them actually get activated by increase in temperature once placed inside your mouth? And that is why you can indulge in a bit of ice cream or anything cold to ease the pain as the decrease in temperature reduces the force. And off course, there’s Biology because at the end we are trying to move teeth and we need to measure and exert the right amount of pressure to move teeth without causing any damage.
What do you think is the biggest change that you’ve seen in your profession?
There is something new being invented in the field Orthodontics every single day. With the advent of CAD CAM based technology aligners, custom made brackets and robots bending your arch wires for you -this really is perfection at its best. Not only does this save chairside time, it also ensures a more precise end result.
Parents who have had orthodontic treatment done couple of years back and bring in their children are surprised to see how comfortable the new generation of orthodontic brackets are and how fuss free the treatment is.
We hardly ever extract teeth in our practice anymore unless absolutely necessary. The newer treatment protocol is to be more conservative and expand arches to align teeth. Another huge change that I have seen is the death of the adage “braces are meant for children”. We have several adult patients opting for orthodontic treatment now. In fact, 50% of my patients are adults who could not get treated earlier on in life. This could be due to increased dental health awareness in the public and mostly due to the new range of ‘invisible’ orthodontic treatments involving the use of aligners and lingual braces.
The top most common orthodontic solutions/services in your practice are:
Aligners, lingual braces, conventional braces and functional appliances- we have you completely covered. And we provide the best of all three. Aligners, and lingual braces are very popular with teenagers and adults. For younger children we usually go in for the conventional braces or functional appliances for growth modulation.
Among adults, what’s the most preferred way of correcting bites and straightening teeth? Are traditional metal braces still popular among adults?
Aligners and lingual braces are the popular and preferred choices for adult patients. However, aligners are restrictive in the kind of tooth movements they can bring about and are therefore not prescribed for all cases. Customized lingual braces tend to be much more expensive than conventional braces and thus in certain cases which are not indicated for aligners and where cost is a concern, the patient would go in for conventional ceramic braces which are aesthetically less visible and rarely for metal braces.
The common misconception/s about orthodontics is/are:
1. I am too old to wear braces – you are never too old to get your teeth straightened. Yes, the tooth movement might be slower than it would be at a younger age. In fact, if done right, orthodontic tooth movement can actually improve the bone level.
2. I am too young to wear braces- yes we always put braces on permanent teeth and hence the misconception about visiting an orthodontist after all your permanent teeth have erupted. However, certain cases require early intervention to correct the ways in which our jaws grow. This is called a Phase-I Orthodontic treatment and is more of a preventive measure to avoid much severe malocclusions later.
Describe a typical day at work.
A typical day starts at 10 and ends at 7. We kick start the day by answering all the queries we receive via email, I prefer having a one on one equation with all my patients. Mornings are usually filled with adult patients and evenings with children who come in post school. Between patients we squeeze in time to work on treatment plan and paper work for our laboratory work.
When it comes to addressing children’s oral health, what’s the most important thing you like to focus on?
When treating children, parents need to understand that orthodontics is not only about the teeth, but it is also about the jaws. Both the upper and lower jaws need to grow in sync with each other, When they don’t it can lead to complications which could require surgical intervention at a later stage. To avoid such a situation, it is recommended to visit an orthodontist as early as 7 years. And of course visit your dentist every 6 months who will look for signs such “deep bite” “cross- bite” “under bite” etc. and refer you to a specialist if needed.
As an experienced orthodontist, what is the biggest problem in oral healthcare today?
We live in a world where everyone’s looking for ‘instant gratification’ with instant food, instant fat loss, and instant smile correction. And while “fast” can make you instantly feel good, “fast” is not always a good thing. The market is flooded with new techniques that promise you the moon.
My recommendation would be to do proper research, weigh all the pros and cons, always take a second opinion and then take an informed decision before getting any treatment done.
When considering orthodontic treatment always ensure that you visit a specialist. A dentist is like a family doctor - great for fillings and check ups. A specialist is someone who has had an additional 3 years of education and is the expert at straightening teeth and choosing the treatment option that’s best for you.
Are there any special tricks or tools you use to help give your patients a positive experience in your practice?
Visiting the dentist should not be an unpleasant experience at all. I believe it’s the entire experience that matters, right from the front desk, to your assistant and of course, the dentist - it’s definitely a team work. At Dr. Michael’s we work towards that, right from the time you enter the clinic you get greeted with a big warm smile at the front desk and the staff will go out of its ways to make you feel comfortable.
I always start by showing the patient pre treatment photographs and study models and give them a mirror so we can look at all the changes that have taken place. Long duration of orthodontic treatment can get the patient frustrated at times but showing them the changes that have taken place really motivates them.
For orthodontics to be effective, what do you usually advise your patients?
Don’t miss your appointments, don’t break your brackets and please keep your teeth clean.
Where do you see orthodontics in 10 years?
Research has shown that as we are evolving our jaw size is actually getting smaller. Ever wondered why most wisdom teeth have no place to erupt? Or in some cases they actually go missing? Well, small sized jaws also indicate an increase in the number of crowding cases and malocclusions and this is a clear indication that there will be an increase in the number of orthodontic cases. Keeping this in mind there is an insane amount of research being done on how to increase tooth movement and bring about more accurate tooth movement. There’s also genetic research being done to prevent malocclusions even before we are born.
Over all the next 10 years seem very promising and it should be interesting to see what new inventions come up.
What sets you apart from other orthodontists?
I feel as an orthodontist I constantly try to re invent myself by attending courses and conferences around the world so that I can give my patient the best treatment available. Many doctors have a water tight attitude towards learning new things and stick to what they have learnt in university 10- 20 years ago, which to me is regressive.
The other thing which I think is important is time. I try to spend as much as time possible to understand what the patient wants and explain what I think is best for them.
What is your work mantra/motto?
When you’ve work in a 45 year old dental practice it is extremely gratifying to see old patients who were treated by your father bring in their children and grandchildren to be treated by you. That to me is a sign of trust and respect which is earned only through honest good work.
This is something we also follow here at Dr Michael’s – honest and good work.
What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing outside of your career?
I love to travel and experience different cultures. Every year my husband and I take off on an adventure to explore a different country.
Dr. Teertha works from 10am- 7pm, Saturday to Wednesday (excluding Thursdays). If you wish to book an orthodontic consultation with her, please call Michael’s Orthodontic Center at (+971) 04.3495900 today.