I recently had the remarkable opportunity to be featured as a guest on Dr. DP Harris’ podcast, Dentistry for the Rest of Us. I love this part of my job so much. I love when I’m able to connect with my peers and simply enjoy some good conversation about the work we do.
In this episode, I tell my endodontist origin story, and how the first half of my life was plagued by bad tooth stories. Folks, I’ll be honest, those years were agony. But then I met a cool surfer dude who was one of the best endodontists I’ve ever met. Through his kindness, his excellent communication, and his attitude, he helped set me down the path I’m on today.
We also went back and forth about different struggles we’ve had over our careers, a mutual dental experience and several incredible insights about the nature of our jobs, including the patient’s perception of value, cooperation vs. competitiveness between dentists, my e-learning endo goals and so, so much more!
Take a moment to listen to it here 👇🏽
And once you’re done, do me a favor and go check out Dr. Harris’ other episodes. She has a lot of INCREDIBLE guests, full of wisdom and dentistry experience, and her podcast deserves some love. We’re all here for each other.
Here are some of my favorite snippets of our conversation:
Dr. Harris: How did you get here in your career?
Dr. Chopra: Let’s go to Day 0, my birthday. I was born without eight teeth. For me, that sets the value for teeth in me. I always say I was born to be a dentist.
As I started to transition into my adult dentition, that’s when the problems began. I was very self-conscious, because without your laterals, you get a huge diastema. I was an ugly duckling growing up. And my mom was very focused on making sure that I had a full dentition when I went to college.
So I ended up getting two bridges on both sides on the lower jaw before college. That summer, I was literally at the dentist every week. I remember it being a summer of graduation parties… and dental appointments.
I got my teeth restored. I was never offered implants, by the way. But soon after, I started getting this weird, vague pain on the lower left. I could not pinpoint it, but it was excruciating. I would go to the dentist, and he would take an x-ray. That was all he would do. He wouldn’t tap on my teeth, he wouldn’t do a cold test, and couldn’t come up with a diagnosis.
This whole saga was about nine months long. I was referred to seven different doctors, even a neurologist.
Finally, I swelled up like a chipmunk. I had a fever. You could not see the border of my chin anymore. It was bad.
And so they sent me to an oral surgeon. They sectioned my bridge on the left side and took out my tooth. As soon as the anesthesia wore off, I still had my toothache. Because it was the wrong tooth.
Dr. Harris: Oh no!
I know. It actually had nothing to do with the abutment tooth. It was just coincidence that I had those bridges placed, and then the pain started. I had actually cracked tooth #18, and it was going necrotic. #19 had been extracted, so now I was missing NINE teeth!
I had never been offered to get a root canal, just an extraction. But when I had the same pain after treatment, I was finally referred to an endodontist.
He changed my life. He was so cool. A surfer dude with a ponytail, the chillest guy I’d ever met. He took the time to explain to me what was going on with my body. I loved every second of it, and I finally got the treatment I needed. He saved my tooth and saved me from pain.
I always wanted to be in medicine because my mom and my brother are both doctors, but I hated the fact that my mom always missed my dance recitals. So I knew medicine wasn’t for me. But since I’d been at the dentist since I was born, and I’ve had every procedure done—veneers, bridges, braces, extractions, root canals, implants, gingival grafts, you name it—I can relate to patients and I know the manner in which I want to treat my patients.
I did a GPR after dental school and worked as a general dentist in Manhattan for a few years. I realized I wanted to be good at one thing, and I think that thing is endo. After I finished my residency, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. But the economy tanked, so it was either unemployment or building my own practice, so I chose to start my own practice from scratch.
Dr. Harris: Dentistry is a small community, and it makes me wonder why we aren’t more collaborative?
Dr. Chopra: Instead, I feel like we’re very competitive, and we need to be collaborative.
I remember when I first moved to Charlotte, there was one endodontist who opened their arms to me and welcomed me into the community. He said, “There’s space for everyone.” He was really kind, and I did not get that warm welcome from anyone else. But everyone is successful. Everyone has enough patients to feed their practice. And there really is enough for everybody, and more people need to have that mindset.
Dr. Harris: How did your experience as a general dentist inform who you are now?
Dr. Chopra: I learned how I wanted to treat my associate. I think that’s probably the biggest. I remember those experiences so vividly and what I did not want to do to somebody. I realized the kind of people I want in my practice, and how I want to pick them, and how I want to treat them. If you can get all of that right, it can really help you grow your practice.
I said to my associates, “Your happiness is my happiness.” I always choose lifestyle over money, because I know the money will always come. There is such an abundance there, but I know that, if I can keep these people happy, it will improve my lifestyle and happiness.
Dr. Harris: How did you gain that mindset of abundance versus scarcity?
Dr. Chopra: That came really early on, and I just knew that when I started my practice, I’d build it on patient feedback and doing the right thing. Ethics runs deep in my blood. If I do the right thing, it’ll just come back around. I believe in karma.
I never focus on money. In fact, when I am interviewing somebody to work in my practice, if their primary goal is to pay off their loans, I know they’re not a good fit for me, because they’re just looking at the dollar signs. Instead, they need to be patient-centered.
There’s lots more good stuff in the audio, including some spicy tales of my time as a general dentist in New York, so take a listen!
I’d love to hear about your takeaways in the comments!