A young South African oral hygienist just shared a surprising dental secret – and it's going viral overseas

Business Insider SA
  • A Joburg oral hygienist has shared the surprising way dentists know whether you are looking after your teeth. 
  • It turns out that your gums reveal much about your dental hygiene. 
  • Her post on Quora has gone viral, and has been picked up by one of the biggest media outlets in the UK. 

A young Johannesburg oral hygienist has shared the surprising way dentists know that you are not taking care of your teeth, and the revelation has proved an instant hit with international audiences.

Boitumelo Koopedi (27) recently published a note on the popular question-and-answer platform Quora, explaining how to judge whether a mouth is healthy.

“Before coming for their bi-annual cleaning, some patients who do not brush their teeth correctly or regularly, attempt to 'hide' evidence of such by brushing their teeth three min before an appointment or for five to ten minutes before they leave their homes headed to the appointment.”

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But by observing the state of their gums, you can clearly see who looks after their teeth, she says.

Koopedi, who works at a Roodepoort dental practice, shared two photos of mouths as an example:

An unhealthy mouth

While at first glance the mouth with white teeth looks like the healthier one, she says that the reddish gums are a clear giveaway of problems.

“If you do not interrupt plaque formation for an extended period, it causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). During the inflammatory process of the gum areas affected, blood rushes to the areas and causes a red coloration of the gum.”

“One cannot simply brush or floss gingivitis away in a few hours,” says Koopedi. Depending on how severe it is, it may take a few days to weeks before visible symptoms disappear.

“So your teeth could sparkle like the mother pearl, but your gums have all the tell tale signs of poor oral hygiene practices.”

This mouth, even with yellower teeth, is healthier, she says:

healthy mout
A healthier mouth

“If you brush properly (and floss between teeth) in a way to interrupt plaque formation, your gums will have a light pink hue on the junction where the gum and the teeth meet, which is a good sign of health, no inflammation.”

Her post went viral on Quora, with more than 350,000 views so far – and it has also been picked up by the UK’s massive Daily Mail website on Wednesday. The site reaches 100 million readers a month.

The article about her revelation was shared more times than a story about the British royals on Wednesday.

Koopedi tells Business Insider South Africa that she is passionate about dental health, after only starting to work in the field two years ago. 

Boitumelo Koopedi.
Boitumelo Koopedi.

After she matriculated in Lenasia, she worked in a bank. “But I really, really hated it.” She decided to study further, only knowing that she wanted to work in the health sector.

Koopedi went through a University of Pretoria prospectus and was immediately captivated by dental medicine.

A colleague at the Roodepoort dentists where she works says Koopedi is “absolutely excellent” in her work.

Dental health is very rarely a first priority for South Africans, Koopedi told Business Insider. She would like to see more people thinking as much about their teeth as about the rest of their bodies.

She also wants to see more flossing.

“You have to do it once a day – to get rid of that gingivitis between your teeth.”

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