Good oral health is key to good overall health. This is the message Dr. Carmen Kamas-Wieting promotes regularly to patients at home in Bellaire, TX and across the globe while serving as an international medical volunteer with Operation Smile and chair of the Operation Smile Dental Advisory Council.
“Educating patients, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, on the pitfalls of bad oral health, and how to maintain good oral health is a consistent theme,” says Kamas-Wieting. “We know good oral hygiene reduces the risk of serious disease, while bad oral health can have the opposite impact.”
The roadblocks to oral hygiene
Dr. Kamas-Wieting has established her authority in speaking on these matters, having taken part in dozens of dental and cleft medical missions around the globe. Individuals born with a cleft lip (tear in the lip) or cleft palate (gap in the roof of the mouth) are subject to a host of health issues, including complications with speaking, eating, and hearing, which is why it is so crucial to treat these conditions early.
Unfortunately, in many countries, adults and children have drastically limited access to safe, effective, and well-timed surgery, dental care, and oral hygiene education. According to Kamas-Wieting, “Failure to brush your teeth daily can lead to cavities, bad breath and tooth decay. Conveying basic information about good oral health and encouraging patients to brush and floss regularly can make a big difference.”
The mission of dental missions
Kamas-Wieting is also keenly aware of the impact culture can have on oral health. “It’s not unusual for patients to show up at a dental mission with missing teeth, or even stained teeth, which in some cultures is a sign of respect. There have been times where we’ve been asked by patients to not remove stains from their teeth,” said Kamas-Wieting. She recalls similar instances of resistance to dental care during her many international dental missions, at which she has watched volunteers, including dentists and dental hygienists, perform hundreds of free screenings, fillings, and cleanings.
Kamas-Wieting believes every person should have access to the same quality of care we would expect for ourselves and our family members. “I will continue to help spread smiles globally by doing my part to support free cleft care and dental care for people all around the world,” says Kamas-Wieting.”I know doing so changes lives and offers hope.”
Nicole Bell, Director of Public Relations, Operation Smile, [email protected]