A survey of Australians dental health has revealed one in five people have gum disease. Even in the most advance cases, many do not know it.
Wagga dental hygienist Glenda Ramirez is not surprised to see those statistics.
“I seem to be telling them on a daily basis, and many of them don’t believe me right away because they think it’s normal for their gums to bleed. They’ve just been living with it for so long. But I say to them, ‘what if your leg started bleeding, would you be worried about that’?”
At least three times a day a patient will present to the iSmile Dental Clinic with signs of the condition, including swollen or tender gums, bleeding, and bad breathe.
“Gingivitis – that’s the fancy name for inflamed gums – and the more advanced periodontitis, we see that probably every day.”
Ms Ramirez describes the mouth as “the body’s first entrance”. When it comes to dental health, you really are what you eat.
“The mouth is a small apparatus but it is the beginning of everything. We talk so much about diet, but we don’t focus so much on keeping the mouth healthy,” said Ms Ramirez.
“People come in and say they’ve been having problems with their digestion, and when we take a look we find infections in their gums.
“It’s like cooking the best pizza in the world but you’re using a dirty oven. The bacteria, the toxins in your mouth, you have to clean them out.”
Bad dental maintenance increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and digestive distress. Though it is now a cliche, Ms Ramirez said the best defence against these health problems is brushing twice and flossing at least once each day.
Ms Ramirez has worked in the big smoke, and has seen different challenges for those who live in smaller populated towns.
“In this area, some people have to travel two or three hours to get here, and where they’re living they don’t have flouride in their water,” she said.
“Country people actually pay a lot more attention to their teeth, they’re concerned about their dental health. In Sydney I would almost get down on my knees and beg patients to look after their teeth.”