Dental School: University of California, Los Angeles
Years in practice: 11
What is the most common pain disorder among your patients?
The most common orofacial pain disorder is called “temporomandibular joint syndrome” and comprises facial pain, jaw-joint pain and noises, headaches, ear pain and neck pain – and they usually present all together.
Have you ever suffered from any orofacial pain yourself? What influenced your decision to pursue this specialty?
I had all the typical symptoms of my patients when I was involved in a motor vehicle accident six or seven years ago. I continue to use my oral orthotic at night, just like I advise my patients. When one of my relatives developed oromandibular dystonia, a condition involving involuntary movements of his jaw, I was unable to help when he approached me. It led me to learn more and discover the field of orofacial pain. It felt like my calling, and I have never regretted my decision.
You’ve trained with neurologists and psychologists. Why is it important to have a well-rounded educational foundation when treating orofacial pain?
Orofacial pain management, in my view, is a bridge between dentistry and medicine. As we deal with atypical facial pain and atypical tooth pain which could be a result of a neurological issue or a dental issue, it’s very important for us to be well-educated in both fields to be able to identify and treat effectively. Chronic pain and psychological issues are interrelated as well. Chronic pain can cause depression and anxiety and, on the other hand, a very common symptom of depression and anxiety can be pain.
Much orofacial pain seems to be linked to sleep issues. Explain.
Yes, sleep is another big factor that affects a person’s pain complaint. Good restorative sleep – or lack thereof – can definitely modify the presenting symptoms. We do include sleep evaluation with our patients.
What are your favorite local restaurants?
True Food Kitchen and Seasons 52 are the all-time favorites, although I love to experiment and find hidden gems like Sunset Bistro and Lupita’s Hot Dogs food truck.
What is the funniest thing a patient has said to you on nitrous oxide?
I do not administer nitrous oxide, but would love to see one day what comes out of my patients’ mouths.
“If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be…”
I would probably be a physician or some other healthcare professional. I love helping people.