(Know your mentor series is an interview based series of stalwarts of dentistry. We take you through their journey and give them a platform to talk in a heart-to-heart personal manner.)
This month, our mentor is Sports Dentist Dr Sneha Divekar. Dr Sneha is one of the most active clinician and academician in the field of sports dentistry. A mentor with the Institute of Sports Science and Technology (ISST), and the Organising Chair of DentalReach Digital Conference & Awards DRDCA 2022, Dr Sneha has also received numerous awards like Rising Star of the Year by IERCT Global and InsightCare “40 Under 40 Passionate Women Leaders in Healthcare 2023”. She has also authored a chapter “Sports Dentistry for Children and Adolescents” in a textbook of Pediatric Dentistry.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in Sports Dentistry?
I started my clinic in Pune, India in 2012. I learnt esthetic dentistry & advanced endodontics, I conducted lot of camps and my practice flourished. I always had the desire to do something different, so while the mundane routine of a regular dentist started becoming boring, I decided to look up something different in dentistry. I was looking for something that no one had yet ventured into. That is when I came across Sports Dentistry and I found it extremely dynamic and interesting. Not only did I realize that there is no course on Sports Dentistry in India (this was in 2017), but also that the way a Consultant Sports Dentist works – do dental treatments for athletes, co-ordinate with the sports healthcare professionals, create awareness for athletes and coaches, etc – requires a lot of knowledge about both sports plus dentistry and also involves lot of social skills. I found this challenging and potentially rewarding.
2. Could you please provide an overview of the Diploma in Sports Dentistry course offered at the Institute of Sports Science and Technology (ISST) in collaboration with DentalReach? What is the main objective of the program?
Initially, in 2018, we had launched a 3 months Certificate program in Sports Dentistry and the main objective was to sensitize the dentist to the topic of Sports Dentistry so they are better equipped to deal with athletes and their dental care. I took a lot of efforts to spread awareness about sports dentistry and after 4yrs, by August 2022, we had completed 8-9 workshops on sports dentistry and almost 70 dentists completed our course. This encouraged us to upgrade the course and we launched the Diploma in Sports Dentistry in September 2022 in collaboration with DentalReach. This program is now 6 months distance learning with a 2-day contact program, 400 pages of course content, 200 marks online exam and 1 practical assignment.
3. What are the eligibility criteria for enrolling in the Diploma in Sports Dentistry course?
BDS from any recognized university in India can do the course. We have interns doing the course with us as well but they need to submit their final year result. Post-graduates, clinicians, academicians are all welcome to do the course. With growing focus on sports, the need of the hour is such that although you can call it a super-specialisation, we didn’t limit the course to only postgraduates, anyone from BDS level should also be able to do it.
4. What are the core areas of knowledge and skills that students can expect to gain during the course?
The main knowledge that the dentist needs to have is various aspects of sports sciences and sports medicine, specific dental care and injury management issues of athletes, all types of mouthguards and most important, how to co-relate sports issues with dentistry like sports nutrition, sports psychology and sports medicine. When performance in sports has gained so much importance, there is a lot to understand how the stomatognathic system can affect athlete’s performance. The dentist has to update many skills like fabricating mouthguards, endodontic and esthetic dental injury management, sports first aid and suturing.
5. How is the course structured? Are there any practical training components or workshops?
The candidate after registration gets a login ID and password on the ISST student portal and gets to see all the notes and 12 online video tutorials. The candidate gets proper instructions regarding exams, assignments and any other doubt solving happens in the workshops. The candidate has to give a 200 marks online exam, 4 months into the course. We have a 2 day contact workshop – one day online which includes all the lectures and 1 day offline workshop that includes the practical hands-on training. Recently, we had our 1 day offline hands-on workshop, the workshop went on smoothly and successfully and the candidates gave great feedback post the workshop.
6. How will you describe DentalReach’s role in the co-certification of the Diploma program?
DentalReach has been instrumental in conducting dental education programs and has revolutionised online dental conferences and events. DentalReach has an online dental magazine with a wonderful array of articles published regularly, and solid partnerships with AEEDC Dubai and other prestigious institutes and events. The ISST co-certification with DentalReach for the Diploma course has enhanced the course’s credibility and they have proved instrumental in spreading awareness among dentists on Sports Dentistry through various lectures that I conducted with them; along with conducting the first ever Digital International Conference on Sports Dentistry in India (DRDCA 2022) where we had an array of national & international speakers. Their partnership has played an important role to conduct the hands-on workshop for the Diploma program.
7. What are the career prospects for individuals who complete the Diploma in Sports Dentistry program?
Though there are no direct “job opportunities” as such for a Sports Dentist, the dentist needs to act more like a Consultant Sports Dentist who visits various schools, sports clubs, amateur and professional sports associations, etc. It’s a great practice builder if you have your own clinic. Even if you are working with someone, this can help grow your patient flow and increase your credibility. This is a unique opportunity wherein you can market yourself and your clinic as a Sports Dentistry Centre. Get all the necessary professionals on board to form a multi-disciplinary team.
8. In your opinion, what are some of the emerging trends or areas of growth in the field of sports dentistry?
Athlete, like any other individual, needs all kinds of dental treatments. So though a lot of dental treatments can be done for the athlete, performance dentistry is the latest buzz word coming up in sports dentistry. This includes newer topics like orofacial myotherapy and neuromuscular dentistry/functional dentistry for athletes. In addition, performance enhancement mouthguards, occlusion & posture corrections, preventive dental treatments like germectomies for wisdom teeth, team mouthguard programs, etc are many other emerging trends in sports dentistry.
9. Is there anything else you would like to share about your work as a sports dentist?
This has been an amazing journey for me so far. I have grown emotionally as a person and gained tremendous knowledge by combining knowledge of sports science, medicine and dentistry. Today, I am a part of many sports organizations and a sports high performance centre; that gives me a deeper insight as a sports dentist. I guess the knowledge and the hard work reflects. I am happy to have received few awards along the way and authored chapters in books. This makes me realize that I am on the right track and I will keep increasing my knowledge and keep teaching sports dentistry.