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Interview: “I will always consider it my duty and pleasure to give back to ROOTS SUMMIT” Dr Roberto Cristescu has been involved with the ROOTS community since the beginning of his professional career as an endodontist. (Image: Dr Roberto Cristescu)
Dr Roberto Cristescu has been involved with the ROOTS community since the beginning of his professional career as an endodontist. (Image: Dr Roberto Cristescu)

Interview: “I will always consider it my duty and pleasure to give back to ROOTS SUMMIT”

By Monique Mehler, Dental Tribune International
March 09, 2020

One of the most special things about ROOTS SUMMIT is the passion and commitment that not just the attendees but also the lecturers and organisers bring to the table. Since the next event—which is being held in Prague in the Czech Republic from 21 to 24 May—is around the corner, Dental Tribune International spoke to one of this years’ lecturers, Dr Roberto Cristescu. The Romanian endodontist attended dental school in Bucharest from 1998 to 2004 and now runs a successful practice and travels the world to share his knowledge. In the interview, he opened up about his beginnings in endodontics, his lecture at ROOTS SUMMIT 2020 and why the event is so special to him personally.

Dr Cristescu, why did you pick endodontics as your specialty?
Back then, while studying endodontics in the fourth year, I realised that it is one of the more difficult and demanding subjects among the various fields of dentistry, but that it can also be a very rewarding one. In endodontics, you can improve patients’ quality of life since endodontic emergencies are among the most painful ones. At the time, my professor of endodontics, Prof. Andrei Iliescu, had a decisive influence on how I felt towards this discipline and on my wish to become a specialist. With his intelligence, scientific knowledge and studious attitude, he managed to inspire me and other colleagues to invest a considerable time in reading, studying and understanding the endodontic core principles.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that, at the age of 22, I already knew that I wanted to become an endodontist and that I was fully committed to working towards this goal. It was not always easy, though, because 20 years ago endodontics was not yet a specialty in Romania. When I graduated from dental school, I had the great opportunity to study under Dr Terry Pannkuk for three months. I went to his office in Santa Barbara in the US, where I watched him perform high-quality endodontic treatments. This confirmed my plans of becoming an endodontist and that this was the only field I was really interested in. After that, I applied for a three-year-long programme at the Academisch Centrum Tandheelkunde Amsterdam [Academic centre for dentistry Amsterdam] in the Netherlands.

“I see myself as a child of ROOTS”

Drs Siju Jacob and Cristescu posing in front of the ROOTS SUMMIT 2016 banner in Dubai. (Image: Dr Roberto Cristescu)

How did you first come in contact with ROOTS SUMMIT and what is your history with the event?
Since my motivation for endodontics was so great, I started doing some research on the Internet—we should not forget this was in the early 2000s and the World Wide Web was still in its early stages. A suggestion by Dr Robert Kaufmann from Canada led me to the fortunate discovery of the online forum ROOTS. You can imagine the joy and happiness I felt as a young passionate student in his fourth year of dental school when I was exposed to all those brilliant cases and discussions on the ROOTS forum by endodontists like Drs Kaufmann, Pannkuk, Marga Ree, Joseph Dovgan, Benjamin Schien, Carlos Murgel, as well as Profs. Fred Barnett and Paul Wesselink—to name just a few of the stars of this era. Dr Ken Serota was in charge when I joined the forum, and it provided the perfect platform to ask questions and search for guidance. I feel nostalgic when I think back to this period.

In 2006, ROOTS SUMMIT was scheduled to be held in Amsterdam. Drs Ree and Ron Fransman arranged a scholarship for me and some other ROOTS colleagues to be able to attend the event. That was my first attendance at a ROOTS SUMMIT. It was a great event! Then I also attended the one in Barcelona in Spain in 2010. The atmosphere was extraordinary, and it was one of the best meetings for me so far. Two years later, I was invited to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil by Dr Murgel to give my first ever lecture. As a young dentist and after 11 years of involvement in the community, this was a major milestone for me. After that, lectures in Chennai in India in 2014 and in Dubai in the UAE in 2016 followed, and this year I will be speaking in Prague. As this is my fourth ROOTS SUMMIT experience as a lecturer, I consider the last ten years a great personal success. I see myself as a child of ROOTS and I will always consider it my duty and pleasure to give back to ROOTS SUMMIT.

“We have to learn to embrace the unknown and potential failure as a part of life”

At this year’s ROOTS SUMMIT, you will be presenting a lecture titled “Endodontic algorithms in decision-making and clinical workflow”. Can you elaborate on what the lecture will be about and what the take-home message for the audience will be?
Throughout the different stages of my career as a passionate endodontic specialist, having a properly organised workflow of the procedures I perform has always been very important to me. Year after year, I gradually came to realise that in medicine we are often uncertain about the way to proceed with treatment. I know that this might sound disrespectful—especially since the human species has achieved its peak of existence with all its technology and knowledge—but the harsh truth is that the results of many clinical studies are often inconclusive and that further research needs to be done to get to the answers that we are looking for.

For both doctors and patients, knowledge gaps are hard to accept and digest in daily medical life. Still, the only way to progress in my opinion is to move forward with a “via negative” (removing what can be harmful, bad and illogical) approach instead of a “via positive” (finding panaceas, protocols that work 100%, defining an ideal instrument or tool) mindset. And here we dip into the world of algorithms, where artificial intelligence helps us to anticipate all the situations that might arise and where you can structure the decision nodes and the workflow before starting a treatment.

I hope the attendees following my lecture will get a better insight into this structured way of thinking and decision-making, even if I know for sure that some of those decision nodes during treatment will not always be in line with one’s desired positive outcome. We have to learn to embrace the unknown and potential failure as a part of life in order to be able to make quick decisions when we deal with those aspects.

“ROOTS SUMMIT has always had brilliant sets of lecturers during its two decades of existence”

At ROOTS SUMMIT 2014 in Chennai, Dr Cristescu presented his lecture “Endodontic flare-ups: Etiology and management”. (Image: Dr Roberto Cristescu)

How important is the scientific programme to ROOTS SUMMIT as a congress?
I consider ROOTS my family, since I have been in touch with those people for years. We share cases, discussions and ideas, and once every two years, we are eager to get together and attend a high-quality scientific programme in endodontics. ROOTS SUMMIT has always had brilliant sets of lecturers during its two decades of existence. It is definitely of great value for people who search for more knowledge in the endodontic field to attend the scientific programme of the meetings.

ROOTS SUMMIT 2020 in Prague is around the corner. Personally, what are you looking forward to the most?
I am looking forward to the two best components of ROOTS SUMMIT: endodontics and friendship. I want to meet my friends from all over the world. I want to talk to them. I want to share my ideas, my hopes, my disillusionments, my reality, my motivation, my failures. Life goes on, no matter what, and once every two years, it is unique to be able to be with the lovely family of ROOTS. I also look forward to welcoming a new generation of lovers of endodontics in Prague. Come to ROOTS SUMMIT 2020!

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