Beginning her professional life as a paediatric dental care doctor when there were very few practitioners exclusively looking after children’s health needs in India, Premila has constantly tried to experiment and innovate in her dental practice, adapting innovative treatment techniques world. As the founder and director of Small Bites, an exclusive dental care facility for children in Bangalore, she looks after the dental health of children, from the regular tooth and gum hygiene to minor corrections and complex surgeries assisted by a talented team of professionals driven by passion and care for their little wards. Backed by an experience garnered over two decades in preventive and paediatric dentistry with renowned hospitals like Fortis and Narayana, she was recognized for her efforts with the “Best Paediatric Dentist – 2020” by PRAXIS Media (National Dental Excellence Award) and honored with The National Excellence Award for “The Best Pedodontist in Bangalore.”
Born in Chennai and brought up in the port town of Porbandar in Gujarat, Premila has never let anything limit her dreams, instead of tackling tasks with her characteristic enthusiasm and spirit of adventure. Beginning her life as a boisterous kid in her family, she always sought out new challenges and experimented with ideas. Moving to Bengaluru after schooling, medicine became her calling, and through the course of it, she realized that pursuing paediatric dentistry is what she wanted to do. She completed her degree, emerging as one of the top performers in the university.
She describes how ‘Small Bites is a true culmination of her dream, and working with children brings her much happiness. “Because they are straightforward and uncomplicated, they make you see life differently. Although treating them is challenging at times, every kid is different, and doing this for them keeps me going,” she says. With her uniquely themed dental care facility, she hopes to expel the fear of dentists common among all children.
Small Bites has grown to become a name to reckon with in the dental fraternity through the years. It was the first exclusive dental center for kids in Bangalore. It was also the first to spread the message and awareness around pediatric dentistry and the importance of milk teeth.
With children being so close to her heart, Premila has a special concern for autistic kids. As she reiterates, “Kids with autism are especially near to me. Over the years, I have interacted with many children with autism and have absolutely fallen in love with their unique personalities”. Her oral hygiene workshops for parents kids with Down-syndrome are very popular with the community, extending to various schools and daycare centers. She recently launched ‘TeleBites’ – a first-of-its-kind video dentistry initiative providing dental services remotely to address children’s dental health concerns. Being conceptualized during the pandemic, the service offers virtual consultation without the need to travel without compromising safety and quality of care. She hopes to reach more people across the country and even outside India for pediatric dental consultation, treatment, planning, and preventive care.
Through the years, Dr.Naidu has followed her various creative pursuits with unbridled enthusiasm and zeal, indulging in biking and running a successful photography practice. Although biking started as a hobby, today, it’s an integral part of her life. She is the first woman to own a KAWASAKI Versys 650 in Karnataka and is often a part of bike rides with the many riding clubs she is associated with. The Autism Awareness Riders Club is most prominent among them, which raises awareness about Autism by organizing biking events around the city. Her biking journeys have led her across rugged terrain, from the panoramic Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra to Goa’s warm beaches and challenging landscapes of Northeast and Leh.
Dr. Premila is a fitness enthusiast who believes that keeping one’s body healthy is a way of respecting all that it does for you – and is particularly essential in the overall well-being of any individual. With her many pursuits, she epitomizes the thought that anything fulfilled with deep passion and love doesn’t feel like a career but living life itself. Pramila got into a conversation with Meghana Harikumar and below are the excerpts.
Doctor and a biker! How did that come about?
I am a Paediatric dentist, and that has been an obsession since the time I was introduced to the subject in my 3rd year of graduation, 20 years back. Graduation followed by post-graduation and pledging every piece of jewelry and risking everything, I started my dream clinic, SmallBites, in 2007. The journey as a doctor was a struggle in the initial days, but I guess when you like what you are doing, the journey doesn’t seem that bad.
Biking came easily to me. I sneaked my relatives’ bike and learned. I used to borrow a friend’s bike at college and used to ride. But it is only 5 years back that I realized the joy of long rides.
India is a country that associates bikes with men. What do you have to say?
Yes, but things are surely changing and for the better. I know so many women who have achieved magnificent goals in the biking community. It’s just a matter of time women on bikes will not be that rare after all. I started my long rides with a biking community called FSMC, which encourages women bikers; they teach women to ride, support, guide, and are just there beside you, and you know you are safe. There are so many lovely women in the group. It’s just wonderful to be a part of the community.
Have you received any stares or weird looks from people while riding?
Always, every time. It is of shock, surprise, and sometimes of respect too. One incident that I remember is a little girl staring at me from the car window, and when we stopped at the bunk for refueling, she came rushing to me to take a picture. She was so happy, now that’s the kind of stares I would love. Each one of us is inspiring some child somewhere just by being us. Isn’t that amazing?
How did you discover your passion for medicine and motorcycling?
Paediatric dentistry has been my obsession, the one thing I can’t stay away from for long. Paediatric dentistry makes me wake up and look forward to the day. Biking is my soul therapy and fitness, my newfound love—the long bike rides, colorful sunrise, and sunsets along the way. Chit chatting through the helmet with my biking family and ending the bike ride on a beach somewhere is my favorite kind of ride. Many people ride for many reasons, but there is something about riding… it heals you. I started my fitness journey to handle my bike better and give enough stamina for the long rides. I had heard things in the early stages about women, women with PCOD and women with C section just pushed me to do better and prove, and we can do whatever. I will give my best to what I believe in and see what happens.
Could you tell me about your family and your support system?
I have been blessed with an encouraging dad and an extremely crazy biking family. My husband, cousins, and friends, all of us, are forever charged about riding. So we plan and take off. We also plan on organizing how to get my son along, so sometimes someone drives, we fly part of the journey, and if they are short trips, he rides along. So our rides have been a complete family affair.
What is your inspiration?
I believe we should do everything we want to. If something makes us happy and we focus enough on it, most likely, it may all fall into place. There is always inspiration around us; we need to look for the good in others. I follow many women bodybuilders; their dedication inspires me. Women bikers and their achievements teach us so much; even professionally, there is so much to learn from the much younger dentists.
Why that extra love and care for Autistic and Downs kids?
I basically love working with children; I have been working with children for a long time, now I don’t know how to interact with adults on a dental chair. Children with Autism and Downs are very close to my heart. The way they love and trust is unique. It may take a little time and may seem a little difficult, but it is actually the same with even typical children. We should look beyond the diagnosis; we should focus on the child.
Which is your favorite bike?
I ride a Kawasaki Versys 650, which seems to be my personal fav. I also own a KTM 390, which is much lighter for city traffic.
What is your advice to aspiring female riders?
Pick up a helmet, a learning license, and find many classes now specifically teaching women to ride geared bikes. It is that simple. So don’t be scared; take the first step.
Being a doctor is a tough job by itself. How do you manage work, passion, and family?
I am passionate about my work and riding. My family is part of both, so I think it’s a little easy, the time distribution part of it.
You look super fit. Do you get time to workout?
With a history of PCOD, assisted pregnancy, and a C section, I was told I will never lift weights and may have chronic back pains. Still, I fell in love with lifting weights, a proper diet, and most importantly, nutrition. This changed my life. PCOD and C section has surely not changed a thing. The lockdown taught me that home workouts could be good, especially when you can’t go to the gym. It is just magic to see how our human body reacts to good nutrition and workouts.
I was told that after 35 years with a C section, a flat tummy is not possible, and I just wanted to do it anyway; I worked on my fitness and got the abs I wanted, toned muscle I often admired, and overall fitness. This is along with my work schedule, pandemic, and everyday stress. I am a bit lazy, so if you are not, you can do wonders.
I’m sure you have a lot of memories. Tell me something exciting, or something that you can’t forget.
All the rides are memorable, may it be short Sunday rides, rides to the Ajantha Ellora caves, our rides to the beaches of Goa, Mahabalipuram, or Kundapur. Rides on the northeastern terrains were a whole new experience altogether. The simplicity and hardship of life there, combined with scenic beauty, was just breathtaking.
My short rides around Leh, with my worried dad following in the car, were exceptional. Then I got the opportunity to ride in Bali too. Our country has so much to offer, and there is so much more to explore just the thought of it makes me get all excited.
You lift weights. Many women are told not to lift weights especially, mothers. What is your take on this?
I have a 10-year-old boy, who asks me why I am not like normal mothers, why do I lift weights at home, why I don’t cook, why do I travel on a bike? Again, an innocent question has put me on a path to shatter children’s opinions about a normal mother, normal dentist, normal person. I want to work on desensitizing women to lifting weight. There are so many women bodybuilders and women weight lifters. But lifting weights, dumbbells can be done at home with just a few of them with the right coach to guide it can help make changes. I personally know so many women friends, moms, professionals who have bought dumbbells, yoga mats, ankle weights, and now they are just collecting dust. We don’t always have to spend hours and hours start with what you are comfortable with and slowly make progress. Yes, consistency is important.
Surviving pandemic was an easy task?
My personal transformation happened during the pandemic. Fitness-wise I realized how simple and easy it is to workout at home. I used to workout whenever I wanted to, sometimes even at night 11. Of course, rides never happened. Professionally, a lot of adaptation and changes, and the best part is the laugh of Telebites. Our video consultation portal helped us follow up with our children who had moved to native, consult and plan treatment over calls, reduce their number of visits. Even now, we have been able to consult children from Dubai, Switzerland, and Singapore. Some plan to come to India for treatment, and some parents, it was the important second opinion.