When you look into the mirror and notice a dark black spot in the corner of your teeth, the first thing you’d do is approach a dentist. Dental care is not a new concept today. A rising number of patients are seeking it, and trained dentists are providing it.
Dr. Sneha Divekar (BDS, FAD, FPC, MPSEN), after practicing dentistry for fifteen years, developed her desire to opt for something different. This led her to pursue sports dentistry, a field that was still in its infancy stages and thus, was uncommon among sports athletes and dentists. Despite the journey being a tough one, Dr. Divekar was committed to bridging the gap and convincing athletes on seeking dental treatment, by spreading awareness among both dentists as well as athletes. As a result, slowly but surely, she could see that things are changing and it won’t be too long before sports dental care will be fully accepted within the community.
Being the Clinic Director of Dental Fitness Clinic—Cosmetic & Sports Dentistry Centre, Dr. Divekar serves her patients with a wide range of dental care services such as teeth cleaning, filling (cement), root canals, extractions, implants, bridges, dentures, etc. along with cosmetic dentistry services like teeth whitening, composite veneers, ceramic veneers, cosmetic gum contouring, tooth jewelry, and complete smile makeovers. In addition to this array of services, she also provides sports dental care which not only involves general dental treatments of athletes, but also specific treatments like giving custom fabricated mouthguards, dental and facial injury management, and multi-disciplinary management of athlete’s oral health.
In an interview with Insights Care, Dr. Divekar shares her journey towards leading a pathway for sports dentistry within her community, which makes her worthy of the title—40 under 40 Passionate Women Leaders in Healthcare.
Following are the excerpts from the interview.
Please brief us about yourself and tell us your source of inspiration for venturing into your healthcare niche.
I am Dr. Sneha Divekar, a Cosmetic Dentist and Sports Dentist. I have been practicing dentistry for the last fifteen years and it was only in the last five years that I am into Sports Dentistry, which is my niche. While practicing routine general dentistry, the quest of trying to do something different and interesting led me to Sports Dentistry. And I discovered that despite it being a very old branch of dentistry for the last three decades in countries like the USA, the UK, and Australia, it is still in its infancy in India and other Asian countries.
With both the sports industry and dental industry booming rapidly in India and the increase in popularity of contact sports, I realized that it has become essential to integrate dental care to be an important part of sports medicine. But that there is a major gap in the knowledge of both the athlete and the dentist regarding sports dentistry and this can be only filled by spreading awareness and creating a proper educational resource for the dentist. It was exactly with this vision that I created a course called “Certificate in Sports Dentistry” in July 2018 which was a three months distance learning course, a first course for Dentists in India. I collaborated with a sports institute called “Institute of Sports Science and Technology” in Pune for the same. They are one of the leading sports academies in India conducting various sports-related classroom and distance learning courses for the past fifteen years.
Can you elaborate more about the services that you provide under your leadership?
My clinic, Dental Fitness (Dental Clinic & Polyclinic) was established in 2012 and since then we have been providing all types of routine dental services like teeth cleaning, fillings (cements), root canals, extractions, implants, bridges, dentures, and other related, along with cosmetic dentistry services like teeth whitening, composite veneers, ceramic veneers, cosmetic gum contouring, tooth jewelry, and complete smile makeovers. We also have a lot of geriatric patients (senior citizens) coming to us for dental care.
To this array of services, sports dental care got added which includes not only general dental treatments of athletes, but specific treatments like giving custom fabricated mouthguards, dental and facial injury management, multi-disciplinary management of athlete’s oral health with other sports healthcare professionals like the sports physician, sports nutritionist, sports psychologist, and others.
Kindly elaborate upon your journey as the guiding light of your organization, and how you have positioned it as a reliable name in the healthcare sector.
This has not been an easy journey; running a clinic, running a course (that too on a completely new topic), and running a house all at once becomes a daunting task. You cannot have a balance every time but you learn to handle it eventually. Also to be a leader in such a niche topic requires a lot of academic upgradations. In the last five years, I have done Fellowship in Aesthetic Dentistry, Diploma in Sports Science, a Master’s Program in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, and Fellowship in Psychology Counselling. All this was done to understand dentistry, not just from the curative point or cosmetic point of view, but from a preventive point of view to understand the correlation between dentistry, nutrition, and psychology. It has made me firmly believe that oral health and general are often co-related. To understand this co-relation even better, I did a “Certificate in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology” course which is now benefiting my senior patients a lot.
Doing all this has immensely impacted my practice and helped me guide my patients. In fact, by doing just a dental check-up, I have recommended BSL tests to many patients through which they were able to discover diabetes, which is now under control and they thank me for this. Creating awareness about sports or athlete dental care, was a tough task as they are apprehensive and have kept oral health as the last priority. So to convince athletes for dental check-ups and undergo dental treatments, all the verticals in the sports industry have to be touched upon, especially the coaches and parents. Thus, for both dentists and athletes, I have been taking the “Dental Care and Dental Injury Awareness program” for many years – both online and offline. Now things are slowly changing. People, sports clubs, schools, and also sports medicine associations are now inviting me for such awareness lectures. And it is heartening to see that slowly but surely sports dental care is getting accepted into the Indian sports community.
As the representation of women in the healthcare sector has increased, is the sector focusing on the needs of women more than ever before?
Yes definitely I see a lot of change as representation of women is increasing in all sectors including the healthcare sector. It not only opens up lot of opportunities for women, but also women healthcare professionals can focus better on the healthcare needs of women. In sync with this, I have been taking many awareness lectures for Women dental care and Child dental care (which is yet again in a way linked to women) in and around my clinic in various health clubs, gyms, women related exhibitions, pre-schools, primary schools, etc. We also conduct combined dental + general + gynaec check-up camps for women around our part of the city in Kothrud/karve nagar, Pune.
Also, now that my niche is sports dentistry, it is very interesting how I am getting to know female athletes in a better manner. Equality in sports is also on the rise and the best way to interact more with such women was joining an organization for which I have joined an amazing organization called “Women in Sports India (WISI) Tribe”. Starting in Pune, it’s now a global community for women in sports and fitness. In this community, we have our online and offline meetings. We have now started to plan and execute events for female athletes and I am a part of the sports healthcare team. In fact, last year, on International Women’s Day 8th March 2022, I have my article published on “Sports Dental Care for the Female Athlete” which was liked and appreciated by many. Link for the article:
Please let us know of any achievements or awards that you have received in your healthcare niche.
I have been blessed to receive many awards in appreciation of my efforts to bring Sports Dentistry to India. I received the “Best Consulting Dental Surgeon in Pune” at the Women Leadership Awards held in Delhi on 8th March 2020 on the occasion of Women’s Day. I have also received the “Sports Dentistry Speaker of the Year 2021” at GOMHA Dental Awards. The “Rising Star Award 2021” as a Sports Dentist from IERCT Global. I have again been awarded the “Sports Dentistry Speaker of the Year 2022” at the GOMHA Dental Diva Awards. I have also authored a chapter “Sports Dentistry for Children and Adolescents” in the textbook “Pediatric Dentistry – Principles and Practice” which got published in October 2022.
Lastly, how do you envision scaling your organization’s services and your niche work in Sports Dentistry in 2023 and beyond?
I am happy to inform you that the course that we started in July 2018 with a lot of apprehensions has not only run successfully for the last four years, but last year in Sept 2022, we also managed to upgrade it to a six months “Diploma in Sports Dentistry” program which is receiving a great response. My vision is to train thousands of dentists in sports dentistry in the next 25-30 years. With our athletes winning accolades on an international level, let us give them the benefit of good oral health to help them perform even better. My clinic, aptly named Dental Fitness, is a Cosmetic & Sports Dentistry Centre and our vision is to spread the message of oral health and beautiful smiles to one and all. We aim to collaborate with other sports healthcare professionals and establish ourselves as a Sports Dentistry cum Sports Rehabilitation center in the near future.