‘Passion gap’ explored at dental conference

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town’s infamous “passion gap” will come under scrutiny at a global dentistry conference today (THURSDAY), in a bid to unpack why many among the city’s coloured community prefers to have their front teeth removed.

Elna van der Ham, former president of the Oral Hygienist Association of South Africa, will present research on this phenomenon that “has filtered into the Cape only in the last 60 years but it dates back to 1500 BC”.

Van der Ham, who usually sees “wealthy clients in private”, said she wanted to work towards understanding the front-teeth-extraction culture.

She has only started her research which is intended to be completed within three years.
“We want to research the cultural reasons for this and eradicate it. Coloured people are so beautiful but when they smile they have no teeth,” said Van der Ham.

“You can have the most gorgeous Miss South Africa but if she has not teeth, it’s not beautiful. We want to go into communities and teach children that you don’t have to pull your teeth out because everybody else is doing it.”

A range of other topics would be discussed between today (THURSDAY) and Saturday when the 19th International Symposium on Dental Hygiene ends. The event is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Among speakers is Professor Robin Seymour, a restorative dentistry teacher at Newcastle University in the UK, who said they wanted the public to know “your mouth is the mirror of your body”.

“We have done investigative studies on this over the last 20 years. We already know if somebody comes in to the clinic with advanced gum disease we test them for diabetes and we find that 70% of the time the person has diabetes,” said Seymour.

The conference falls ahead dental awareness month in September. A total 600 delegates would attend the event which would unpack the latest research in the medical and dental field.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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