Dr. Saritha Chary-Reddy had already obtained a Ph.D. in Genetics when she realized that she was not truly happy with her career choice. “Something was missing in my life”, she said. She started working with a relative who was a dentist and realized that she loved that work more and wanted to change professions.
Dr. Chary-Reddy then received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery with honors from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. During her second year of dental school, she had a 9-year-old patient who needed a lot of dental work. “I started working with the orthodontist and then the oral surgeon, and then the periodontist, and everybody!” she recalls, “And that is when my passion for orthodontics started.”.. She decided to continue her specialization in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and opened her practice there in 2005.
“I am originally from India, but I have been in Texas for 18 years now and I love this state. The lifestyle is good, the weather is good, it may get hot, but hey, that’s part of living here,” she said with a big laugh. She loves that San Antonio is a very welcoming community that has maintained the feeling of a small city, and she likes being able to contribute to her community and knowing that she has made a positive impact.
Practicing orthodontics is “like a dream come true for me,” she said. “I love what we do and the interaction with the patients. I even run into patients about 15 years after their treatment and they still recognize me and they say ‘Don´t worry, I am still wearing my retainer!”
One of Chary-Reddy’s priorities has been to stay on the leading edge of orthodontics and preparing herself to provide the best possible treatment for her patients. “An orthodontist has to have long-term vision when working on a patient and take many factors into consideration regarding the best course of action,” she explained. Orthodontists are specially trained to know the mechanics behind the movement of teeth, and the growth and development of the face. “So when a child walks into our clinic, we are not just thinking of how they should look good for the next couple of years; we are thinking of how they will look good in 20, 30 years.”
Dr. Chary-Reddy would like for parents and patients to remember that orthodontics is not just about aesthetics, and that early evaluation can have a great impact, particularly for children.
“We have patients who are as young as 7 years old that come in for an initial evaluation. I look at them and the very first question I ask the parent is ‘does the child sleep with his mouth open?’ And they say, ‘Doctor Reddy how did you know about that?’” Many children suffer from sleep apnea, and when they don’t get enough oxygen parents don’t realize that the solution can be at their orthodontist’s office, she said. When children are not able to sleep well, or develop properly, they may experience symptoms that can be confused with ADHD or other problems. But, sometimes, it could just be that the jaw or teeth are positioned in a way that obstructs proper breathing, Dr. Chary-Reddy explains.
Sleep apnea is a condition that should be thoroughly evaluated by a medical doctor, but an orthodontist may be able to provide very effective treatment. It is very important to evaluate children as soon as possible because they are still growing, and this allows the orthodontist to correct most issues and avoid surgeries, Dr. Chary-Reddy explains. “The way the teeth and the jaw are positioned is just one of the factors of sleep apnea, but that is the one factor that we, as orthodontists, can play a role in preventing.”
Orthodontics is a field that is best for those who love interacting with people. “You are dealing with the parents, with the patient, with the staff. One day you are the doctor, the second you are the counselor, the next you are looking at the finances, or you are the boss, ” Dr. Chary-Reddy explains.
People looking to get into the profession should realize that they will have to work hard, need strong discipline and isn’t ideal for someone who tends to procrastinate. “I wake up at 5 a.m. and leave home at 6:50 a.m. or so. My days are around 12 hours long. But, because I love what I do so much, the day goes by very fast.”
The company and camaraderie of her staff, the gratitude on her patients smiles, and the opportunity to change lives is what keeps her excited about the profession. “When somebody asks me ‘When will you retire?’ I just answer ‘I’m not. Why should I? I love my job!’”