Dr. Sima Yakoby Epstein has the enthusiasm, knowledge, and innovative spirit to create products by her company, OrthoNu, which will bring efficiencies to orthodontists and orthodontic patients.
What can you tell us about your background?
I am a first-generation born from Georgian immigrant parents who came to America with $100 dollars in their pocket and big aspirations. My father worked 18-hour days driving a yellow checker cab to survive and raise three children. In Georgia, my mom was one semester shy of becoming a doctor and was also a professional pianist. She and my father decided to pursue the American dream. I often think about how she must have felt, and how she had the strength to continue to be incredibly fearless! She filled our tiny apartment with music and home-cooked meals, and the door was always open to anyone who needed a friend. I often reflect on my parents with amazement and adoration. My mom and dad truly taught me compassion by giving when they didn’t have anything and relying on their cultural foundation of feeding everyone as their way of showing love and respect — a trait I am proud to say I still carry on to this day! I dreamed of one day becoming a doctor so my mom could truly see the greatness she instilled in me and know that her incredible sacrifices were not in vain. I was raised with a hard-work ethic, to be grateful for the opportunity of freedom, and with proof that the American dream is real!
When did you become a specialist and why?
I became a specialist after a General Practice Residency at New York Presbyterian, working in New York City as a cosmetic dentist to eventually teach at NYU Advanced Aesthetic Dentistry. Shortly after, I went back to the University of Pennsylvania, knowing I would have the privilege of having Dr. Van Arsdale, Dr. Chung, Dr. Sklaroff, and Dr. Secchi as my mentors.
Is your practice limited solely to orthodontics, or do you practice other types of dentistry?
After graduating Orthodontic Residency from University of Pennsylvania, I was solely practicing orthodontics with Dr. Lemchen and Dr. Salzer in New York City. I am now the founder of OrthoNu, where I’m focused on integrating noteworthy products for orthodontic patients.
Why did you decide to focus on orthodontics?
My focus was influenced by my car accident as a 13-year-old girl. Those were my most vulnerable moments, where I felt so unattractive with broken and uneven restored teeth and constant dental work that left me insecure about my appearance throughout my teenage years. It was painful physically and emotionally, especially since I knew my parents did not speak the language and had little to no guidance or point of reference for this. They just knew their child was struggling, and I didn’t want them to be distressed. I went through years of treatment during which I became fascinated with and appreciative of the vital role that an orthodontist I visited regularly had in my treatment and my life. He transformed my smile, a physical change that also provided me with mental and emotional confidence. Then, my interest in orthodontics and passion for patient well-being began. This is what motivated me to start OrthoNu.
How long have you been practicing orthodontics, and what systems do you use?
I practiced for over 10 years and used conventional twin and self-ligating systems.
What training have you undertaken?
I trained at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine for my DMD and as well a degree in Clinical Orthodontics. I was fortunate enough to work with incredible mentors Drs. Salzer and Lemchen as my first job in New York City.
I am driven to make OrthoNu the industry brand leader in oral self-care, helping patients and doctors to create a partnership.”
Who has inspired you?
My father has inspired me to overcome the most challenging of moments, teaching me by example. I believed I could achieve anything by his success. I watched him turn one yellow checker cab in New York City, carrying a Russian/English dictionary, into building a fleet of yellow cabs and medallions where he would exclaim, “Only in America!”
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
Being around patients all these years taught me so much about the way they think, how they work through the day-to-day struggles and challenges that inevitably arise as they travel through the treatment journey. I am driven to make OrthoNu the industry brand leader in oral self-care, helping patients and doctors to create a partnership. I also derive great joy out of meeting our future orthodontists currently in residency programs across the country and getting acquainted with them. They are truly the future of our profession.
Professionally what are you most proud of?
Developing a compassion for patients and using my knowledge as an orthodontist to create a company with the sole purpose of inspiring confidence and hope in every patient, parent, and doctor.
What do you think is unique about your company?
OrthoNu is unique because its focus is on driving innovation in oral self-care to support both patient experience and practice efficiencies. We are creating a new category of professional-grade, self-care products that are meant to create a true system of incorporating solutions for pain/discomfort, oral hygiene/halitosis, and overall oral health. This, I believe, is going to improve the industry.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Being an orthodontist and feeling confident as a doctor, and then switching roles to being an entrepreneur was a welcoming challenge. There are many skills that I had to hone along the way. It can be daunting to know that many of these pivotal moments depended on a belief in myself. I never stop and never allow anything to interfere with my focus and vision. I am confident my intuition and instinct will help me advance to the next step.
What would you have been if you hadn’t become a dentist?
I would have been an ER doctor. I was always so fascinated when I did my residency at the hospital at how confident and mentally fearless these doctors had to be in the most critical moments. I am in awe of their courage and compassion when helping human beings at their most vulnerable moments. That is true heroism.
What is the future of orthodontics and dentistry?
Orthodontics and dentistry are undergoing a seismic shift due to the massive growth in patients of all ages seeking treatment. With this comes a huge potential. The orthodontic market alone is projected to grow 300% by the year 2027! From the advent of AI, telehealth, the impact of OSOs, DSOs , De NoVo’s and the expansion of aligner companies, the growing market will have the industry soaring. Also, given these new technologies, orthodontics brings change to practice efficiencies, creating more emergency visits. Having ways to mitigate the pressing impact is important. It’s continued innovation that will be driving us forward.
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful specialty practice?
First, start with a strong foundation. This begins with the intention of the doctor, communicating with the staff and team working together to deliver the treatment, tools, and respect to patients to ensure the best possible experience during their treatment journey. Second, empower the patient. Spending the time to educate your patients on their oral self-care regimen and giving them the proper tools will make all the difference in their confidence and ability to take care of the inevitable issues without having to interrupt their day for an emergency visit.
What advice would you give to a budding orthodontist?
Figure out what means the most to you as a doctor, and understand your true passion and how you want to give that to your team and your patients. You will achieve greatness when you realize what innately drives you.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
My joy is observing my children Sloane and Liam light up with a smile from succeeding in the smallest of accomplishments. I cherish these moments and feel lucky and honored to be their mom. I love watching my husband illuminate when he leaves a golf course, and I ask him, “how did you play?” My greatest love is being able to travel and experience all the beautiful cultures and traditions this world has to offer. Sometimes, I enjoy spending a Sunday morning reading the New York Times with a cup of coffee and a loaded bagel. I always look forward to making sweet memories with my precious family and incredible friends and watching or playing tennis. My dad felt that tennis was a life lesson on opportunity, and with that instilled the love of the game in my brothers and me. I treasure time at the beach, the texture of sand, and the ebb and flow of ocean waves, and you will frequently see me with the windows down and screaming the lyrics while dancing like no one’s watching in my car! My home is always filled with great music and food made with love. It’s the natural result of setting goals, achieving them, and maintaining discipline for my passions every day that fills my heart.
For more information, visit https://orthonu.com/.
OrthoNu offers Tweakz, its product that makes removing clear aligners easier. Read about how Dr. Jeffrey Heinz created a successful clear aligner experience for his mother, at https://orthopracticeus.com/pushing-the-limits/