Female Disruptors: Dr. Asha Rani On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry


The first piece of advice I received as a working mom was that it’s important to be present with your children as they get older. As a young mom, I thought that I could lengthen my work day as the children grew older and needed me less for their functional needs. I did not realize that my level of presence and awareness in their teenage lives was going to be even more ground breaking. The physical parent responsibilities shift into delicate and emotional supportive care for our young pre-adults. It is crucial and not to be taken for granted. Having open conversations with my children about their day, their friend relationships, and their fears and struggles has been key to understanding what they need from me as a parent.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Asha Rani.

Dr. Rani has been a practicing periodontist in New York City with 20 years of clinical and surgical experience. Throughout her career which began as a dentist treating US Veterans with PTSD, she realized that patient care required a compassionate connection and a full mind-body approach rather than the tunnel vision of simply tooth trauma. She has integrated dance and meditation into her dental treatment as methods of reducing anxiety and as an alternative to the use of prescription medications.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was born in NYC and raised in lower income housing, also known as “the projects”. My parents came from India with very little money and education but with a dream in their heart to create a better life for themselves and their family abroad. Being raised as a first generation American by immigrant parents meant there was an expectation to study hard, do well, be respectful of others, and honor the sacrifices made to allow the life I was living.

In the early years, my mother spoke very basic English and I would accompany her on her dental visits as a translator. She had many dental issues, which meant I spent a lot of time experiencing the dental world; more than the average teenager. I always had a joy for art so watching the dentist work with their hands was exciting for me. Feeling the emotions of my mother when she would smile and explaining her concerns to the dentist, gave me an appreciation for this very unique field of health care. The human connection and the chairside artistry is what led me to choose a career in dentistry. My passion for digging deeper and getting to the root of the matter, literally and holistically, is what propelled me further to specialize in periodontics and implant surgery.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

In the field of dentistry, the level of stress is perhaps greatest of any field in health care. Just the mention of the word dentist creates a feeling of anxiety. The lack of human connection and trust in the provider adds to that feeling and becomes a recipe for treating dental phobic patients. In a world where prescription drugs are used routinely and in some cases without further insight into the individual patient, I felt that other forms of stress reducing modalities can be utilized.

What is the difference between drugs and medicine? With time and usage, the dosage of the drug is generally increased to address the ailment. With true medicine however, the body begins to heal and less is needed over time. During the Covid pandemic, as everyone was being instructed to socially distance, the level of human connection was less but the need for compassion was more. Fear was at its height and the decision to come to the dental office was the last thing anyone wanted to do. I knew that something had to change in how I was going to build a relationship while wearing two layers of personal protection equipment, two masks and a shield. In a field where conversations are minimal, I knew I had to bring a more mind-body-soul approach to my practice of dentistry. I decided to step out of the box of traditional training, disrupt the norms of dentistry, and prescribe meditation and dance as the greatest medicine and healer.

This patient care method was not taught in the 4 years of dental school, 4 years of dental residency, or the many years of clinical practice. The integration of sharing a human connection with patients was a personal journey that started with my own transformation in my personal life. I realized that if the medicine of meditation and dance was working for me, then it would help others. Yes this disrupts every scientific and critical analysis of what dental treatment is supposed to look like, however the evidence of stress reduction is in the smiles, laughs, and joy of my patients; one that is unheard of in dentistry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not a professionally trained dancer but I can bust my moves with a flow and rhythm that feels freeing and joyful. I use that energy to motivate my patients to groove to their own beat. The first patient I ever asked to dance with me was an 84 year old male with stage 4 liver cancer. We shared life stories, tears, and a true connection that was magical. I knew that dancing was going to give this patient a few moments of an experience that he had not felt in a very long time. I was excited to play my favorite dance party songs and show him how to move his body. Well, I was schooled instead. He got up from the dental chair, told me he was a professional ballroom dancer for many years and was going to show ME how to dance. I was shocked. He picked the song, Better in Time by Leona Lewis and gently grabbed my hands. He became the leader. He taught me how to move with grace and made me feel like a princess in a ballroom. I was humbled and beyond grateful for that experience. I learned very quickly that the teacher must always be open to becoming a student. I will never forget that feeling.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have been blessed with many amazing teachers along this journey of life. The practice of soulful healing and a deeper awareness of myself came about from practicing meditation. Yes there is a connection between meditation and dance. What is it? The opening of our heart to unravel the deeper layers buried under childhood conditioning and trauma is life changing. Meditation opened my world to healing old wounds and reconnecting back to the joys of life I had forgotten and blocked out.

As a child, I always loved dancing; whether it was in the bathroom by myself, playing dress up as a Bollywood actress, or simply daydreaming about dancing onstage with my favorite heroes. If it wasn’t for meditation, I would not have been able to slow down and feel into the present moment. I was so caught up in the fast paced hamster wheel of getting the checklist done that I was missing out on life.

I started meditating 5 years ago under the guidance of a spiritual teacher and shaman. He taught me to let go of the rules I placed around what meditation was supposed to look like and feel like. The first experience of closing my eyes, hearing my breath, and feeling an inner peace I had never felt before was an awakening. With time, I went deeper into my own personal healing journey and am so grateful I did. Personal wellness is so needed yet understated in the world we live in. We forget to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before attempting to help anyone else. My practice of dentistry has elevated to new levels since I made the decision to spend time on my own mind, body, and soul. I am a better person for this gift of meditation and I bring that healing energy to my patients.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Whether something is positive or not, is all based on perspective. Two people can look at the exact same thing but have different reactions or thoughts about it. How one perceives anything in life is based on one’s personal experiences, upbringing, and conditioning. If we put that aside for a moment, I would say that anything which benefits the masses as a whole is a positive disruption. Change which can be carried forward and modified to adjust with the flow of life is a disruption which gives room for growth. For example, the Covid pandemic disrupted the working model as we know it forever. The business world was disrupted, however, in a really great long-term way. For the first time, there is a model of remote working which has become acceptable, productive, and has allowed many to feel a much needed work-life balance. Many major companies now have their employees work from an alternating at-home and in-office schedule. This was never an option before when many female professionals felt the stresses of managing work, homelife and parenthood. As a result, women were left out of top leadership roles. The positive disruption provides room for growth and flexibility that is profound.

The times in life when disrupting an industry is not so positive is when the change benefits a few at the cost of many others. An example of that would be in the field of sports and the use of performance enhancing drugs. In the personal effort of some athletes to compete competitively and elevate their own game, many dangerous and unhealthy substances are being used. While the field of sports entertainment gains an audience and financial compensation as millions tune in to watch in awe of the athletes, the masses as a whole suffers. Young talented men and women are now being groomed to believe that their level of play is not enough and resort to alternate means of improvement. The false sense of success and work ethic needed to become a star athlete becomes tainted and pure talent and training fall to the wayside. Our young generation needs to believe in their inherent abilities, not sacrifice themselves for what will make for the better show.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The first piece of advice I received as a working mom was that it’s important to be present with your children as they get older. As a young mom, I thought that I could lengthen my work day as the children grew older and needed me less for their functional needs. I did not realize that my level of presence and awareness in their teenage lives was going to be even more ground breaking. The physical parent responsibilities shift into delicate and emotional supportive care for our young pre-adults. It is crucial and not to be taken for granted. Having open conversations with my children about their day, their friend relationships, and their fears and struggles has been key to understanding what they need from me as a parent.

The second piece of advice I am always grateful for is to not take life too seriously. We often get caught up in the role of being an adult and think it’s time to be serious and be responsible. Yes that is true, but who said that being an adult has to be boring? Remembering to connect to our inner child reminds us of our joys in life. Mixing work with play and making it one has been beautiful. Bringing dance into my daily way of being, whether at home or at work has brought me a new energy and has made me feel 20 years younger and more vibrant.

The third piece of advice I feel to my core is simply to follow your heart. We often get stuck in our heads, thinking of things that went wrong, and becoming stressed over scenarios that haven’t happened yet. I have learned that when we can tune into our hearts first, and feel connected to what feels good, that is the beginning of choosing the right path. Follow your heart, and then use your thoughts to help guide you forward, not the other way around. When I chose to integrate meditation into my practice, I felt the intuitive pull to go with it. Yes there were many times when my brain would tell me the opposite. I thought, this is against the norm, who will do it, people will judge me, I’m not following dental protocol, and on and on the limiting beliefs continued. However when I finally calmed my mind and silenced the noise in my head, I could feel my heart and the energy it was giving me. I felt the deep connection and soul awakening to create my own path, share my gifts, and stay true to myself.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am going to continue to live my truth as I move forward in my healing journey. I know that the love I have for myself is far greater than the fear of judgment, so I am eager to get on stage and speak my truth on all things we’re afraid to discuss. The best teachers are the ones who have been in the deepest and darkest places and now can shed light to help others. My mission in this lifetime is to explore, create and share. If I can change even one life with my story then I am immensely grateful.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

The biggest challenges faced by women disruptors are their own limiting beliefs. We are conditioned and raised to be the “good girl”, speak gently, stay quiet, don’t cause trouble, and be pretty and dainty. Male counterparts however, are raised to be the go-getters, be loud, speak up, and fight for what you want. Before we as women can expect society to change, we must first work on ourselves to untether the female checklist and what’s considered a successful life. We have to go back in time and understand the programming of what being a woman looks like. This difficult process means facing our wounds, asking for help, and empowering ourselves to break societal norms and pressures. When we can stand in our power and grace, that is when we will carry the title of simply being a leader, and not a disruptor.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

There are many influential books and motivational speakers out there. I have read and listened to people of all backgrounds and cultures and remain open to receiving the message. On a deeply personal level, I have followed the works of spiritual teachers like Esther Hicks and Riz Mirza. I have read books by Brain Weiss, Sonia Choquette, and other authors that shed light on opening your third eye and connecting to the unseen world. These amazing teachers have furthered my practice of meditation and soul awakening. We have more than 5 senses and when we surrender to our intuitive sense among the many others, life begins to feel and look different. This experience can’t be put into words, it’s a way of being. The only thing I can share is that when you believe that you can create the life you desire and then tap into that power, you will watch your dreams become a reality. That is magic!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would like to inspire people to use LOVE as their greatest healer. This is not a movement, but rather a returning to home. Tapping into our innate power of love and using that to overcome fear, heal childhood trauma, let go of judgment, blame, anger, and every obstacle holding us back will be our greatest victory. This love movement begins with the self. Don’t worry about changing the world or creating a movement for the masses. Focus on yourself. It’s not selfish to live the life you want. You are more than the roles you play. You are given this one lifetime so make it count by facing those deep dark places you have kept hidden and afraid to open up. This personal healing journey of self love is contagious and benefits the masses. The movement is simply one personal step. As you step forward into your own light, watch the effects it has on all the people around you. This is the greatest impact anyone can make in the world and leaves a lasting legacy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Your elevation was born the moment you killed your comfort zone.” — source messages

These words cut straight to what we are all afraid to do but need to do to grow. Staying in what we know as the norm because of fear, doesn’t give room for creativity or growth. We are here in this Earth school to learn and grow in ways that are massive. We’re not here to follow a mold created by someone else. Everyone is on a personal journey so don’t compare your path to theirs. Be authentic and live in your own truth. Embrace your uniqueness and step out of the box. It’s comforting to stay in what you know, even if it doesn’t feel good because you know what to expect. However, the moment you decide to let go and surrender to the unknown, that is when you break free and fly like you’ve never done before. You elevate to a level you never could have imagined and experience the magic of life.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can find me on instagram @dr_asha_toothfairy https://www.instagram.com/dr_asha_toothfairy/?hl=en

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!