2019 Top Dentist: Seena Patel

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Photography by Steve Craft

TMD and Orofacial Pain

Dental School: A.T. Still University

Years in Practice: 7

When did temporomandibular disorder and orofacial pain become the purview of dentistry? And what drew you to the field?
Orofacial pain has actually been a part of dentistry since the 1970s, and in 1993, the American Board of Orofacial Pain was established. Orofacial pain disorders represent a unique part of dentistry. It intricately ties together many scientific disciplines: physiology, medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, physical therapy, psychology. This very multifactorial nature of the field piqued my interest and drives my ambition every day.

You are particularly interested in dental sleep medicine. What does that involve, and what’s the dental connection?
Dental sleep medicine is a discipline of dentistry that involves the management of sleep-disordered breathing with the use of oral appliances alongside the treating physician’s recommendations.

You’ve done research on patients undergoing head and neck cancer therapy. How does that affect their dental health, and how do physicians like you address those needs?
Head and neck cancer treatments can include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These can have detrimental effects on the oral cavity, including dry mouth, increased risk for tooth decay and tooth loss, pain, oral infections and osteonecrosis of the jaws. Physicians will refer patients for dental clearance so that potential sources of infection are treated before starting radiation and chemotherapy.

Who is your favorite pop-culture dentist? (Hermey from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Orin Scrivello from Little Shop of Horrors? etc.)
Dr. P. Sherman from Finding Nemo. It’s one of my favorite movies, and the lines from the dental scene are quite accurate!

If you could persuade all Americans to follow one bit of dental advice, what would it be?
Visit the dentist regularly and value preventive dentistry. Good oral health equates to good overall health. Your smile is worth it!

What’s the funniest thing a patient has said to you on nitrous oxide?
“I feel like I’m floating in outer space!”

“If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be…”
An animator! I love the artistic side of animation, and I find the art of making movies to be exciting and inspirational. It would keep the child in me alive!

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