The dental health of Singapore residents is not much better than that of people in poorer countries (Long waits of a year or more for treatment at dental centre; March 27).
There are two main reasons for it.
First, the general population does not have a habit of visiting the dentist regularly. People here are generally not prepared to pay for dental care. Also, people think it is all right to extract teeth and replace them with dentures.
The second reason is the dental profession's wrong approach to treating gum disease.
The teaching of management of gum disease has not changed since my student days. The techniques are outdated and, worst of all, most dentists use the wrong equipment. This means even routine scaling can be a painful and uncomfortable experience.
Most people feel that scaling and polishing is a very simple procedure.
Most dentists think so, too, as they call it a brainless procedure. So the fees are very low. This sets up a vicious circle of not spending enough time on the process or using non-dentists, such as a hygienist, to do the job.
The majority of these patients end up seeing the periodontist or losing their teeth.
Prevention and management of gum disease can easily be handled by all dentists. The long wait at the National Dental Centre Singapore is totally unnecessary.
Seow Onn Choong (Dr)