10 Under 10: New dentist champions care for patients with disabilities

Strong foundation: Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D. (second from left), spends time with her parents and sister.

When it comes to her work ethic, Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D., has been doubling down on tenacity since she was first in dental school in India, where she was born and raised by a science teacher mother and soldier father.

An avid foodie, Dr. Venkatesh even incorporated her culinary interest and hobbies into her pursuit of a dental career.

"I used to actually run a baking business out of my home when I was in dental school in India to be able to pay for dental school," she said.

She took busyness a step further while in dental school by incorporating her passion for dancing into the mix. She taught dance classes when not baking or working towards her bachelor's degree in dental surgery at Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India.

"My schedule in dental school in India was: I would wake up in the morning, teach dance from like 6 to 7:30 or 8 o’clock, and then go to dental school from 9 to about 5," she said. "Then, from 6 to 8, I would teach another couple of classes of dance. And whatever baking orders I had, I would do those after that. Then I would study for all my classes and do all my assignments and everything, go to bed and then wake up the next morning at 4:30. I did that for five years."

Such impassioned effort led to many career accomplishments in the ensuing years. This pursuit of excellence has not gone unsung. Dr. Venkatesh earned a spot as one of the 2022 ADA 10 Under 10 Award recipients and has a growing collection of other honors, including earning the Outstanding Clinician Award in 2021 from the National Network of Oral Health Access and recognition as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Dentists in America.

Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D., taught dance classes while she worked towards her bachelor's degree in dental surgery at Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India.
Passion: Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D., taught dance classes while she worked towards her bachelor's degree in dental surgery at Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India.

The road from India to her impressive laurels as a new dentist in America started in Atlanta, during a visit when she was still a third-year dental student. Her older sister had moved to the United States to pursue a master's degree. She was too busy to socialize much with Dr. Venkatesh.

"I chose to entertain myself by walking down the street to this dental office that was there," Dr. Venkatesh said. "I literally just went there and went up to the front desk and said, 'Hey, I'm a dental student from India, and I just want to see what dentistry is all about in the U.S.' That was my first exposure to dentistry here. It was wonderful because I got to see the use of technology here. In India, there still wasn't all that much integration of technology with dentistry. Learning all of these different aspects, I was like, 'This is wonderful.'"

She also visited a community clinic, where she observed how they were helping different patient populations.

"I was like, 'Man, this is really interesting. I think this is what I want to do. I want to be in public health. I want to learn how to integrate technology and basically improve standards of care for all patient communities,'" Dr. Venkatesh said.

She decided that she wanted to pursue a dental career in America and got to work on making the big move. Ultimately, she graduated from Rajiv Gandhi in 2013 and from the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in 2018. She later completed a general practice residency at Yale New Haven Health Hospital/Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, before heading west to California, where she currently lives and practices. She also is continuing her education and training at the University of Southern California, pursuing a hybrid master's in orofacial pain and oral medicine.

She also moved out of private practice to work with patients with special health care needs at Alameda Health System in Oakland, California. There, she provides care to patients who have disabilities or are medically comprised and need complete dental rehabilitation under general anesthesia, as well as various dental procedures to those under nitrous or conscious sedation.

The move to Alameda was a big decision and at first gave her a bit of pause.

"I actually quit my job in private practice, [thinking], 'Oh my god, what are you doing? You have all these loans. You paid for dental school, and you're doing this master's [and have] tuition for that,'" she said.

Although she knew she was taking a big chance, Dr. Venkatesh decided it was the right path to create more opportunities aligned with her desire to work in public health and so she pushed on.

"It was perfect because the doctor who was managing the special needs program here was retiring," she said. "So, they were looking for somebody who could come on, who had that experience and wanted to work with patients with special health care needs, and I was like, 'This position is made for me. This is what I want to do.'"

Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D., spends time with her husband and 16-month-old son
Family time: When she is not working in dentistry, Anchita Venkatesh, D.M.D., spends time with her husband and 16-month-old son.

After obtaining the position as program director at Alameda Health System Highland Hospital, Dr. Venkatesh took initiative to bolster its special needs program. She approached the program chair with a proposition of establishing a general practice residency at the hospital similar to the one she completed through Yale. She determined that the program could help the special needs population, address a shortage of providers and fortify the workforce. Her impressive argument won over the chair.

"She was super supportive," Dr. Venkatesh said. "She was like, 'Yes, go for it. I will 100% back you on this.' That started my process to get all of the CODA documents and get the application done. So, we got all of that done and approved, and we started our first class this July."

Adding to her list of accomplishments, Dr. Venkatesh also is working to create an augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, mobile app to help nonverbal patients communicate more efficiently. AACs use symbols, alphabets and other visual and sound tools to help convey meaning.

"There are a lot of these boards out there, but there’s nothing that’s dental focused, to be used at a dentist office," Dr. Venkatesh said. "Whatever there is, access to these is very limited because either they are very expensive applications or they're limited to being something available only on the iPhone. I know that access has improved with having smartphones, but not everybody has an iPhone or an iPad. And to be able to pay $100 for an app, it's not something that every group home can even afford. But it can be such a useful tool in the dentist office because it gives these patients that sense of control and independence."

When she is not working in dentistry, Dr. Venkatesh spends time with her husband and 16-month-old son and continues to pursue the hobbies that helped get her through dental school in India — cooking and dancing. She blogs on the topic of food under The Curry Yatra on Instagram.

Learn more about the 10 Under 10 Awards program and read about the other winners at

Recommended Content


© 2023 American Dental Association