Drummoyne Dental Surgery has been serving the local community for their oral health needs for over 20 years. We treat people ranging from babies to the elderly.
Tell us about yourself
I am a mother of 2 small children (1.5 and 2.5 yrs old), sometimes struggling to keep my head above water. Some days I manage to do it and give myself a secret high 5 that they’re still alive. I have lived in Balmain for 6 years and my sister has for 15 years so I know the local area well. Before that I lived in Forest Lodge and Newtown and grew up in Gosford. I have worked in Drummoyne for 9 years.
I completed a year of Uni in Glasgow, Scotland before moving to Adelaide for the remaining 4 years to complete my degree. I came back to Sydney once I was qualified and spent 7 years working in the public system, then 4 years working in social special needs with homeless people, mental health disorders, domestic violence shelters, and people affected by drug and alcohol abuse by providing dental services.
I also used to be part of a group called Alive and we went into Villawood detention centre to look after the kids by trying to bring a normal life to them in that horrible environment. We would have water fights, read stories, and do activities to make them laugh. It had a brilliant flow on effect to the adults too as when you hear and see children having fun and laughing, they can’t help to feel better themselves.
Working with refugees and asylum seekers is something very important and close to me, both personally and professionally. My husband came to Australia as a refugee, coincidently, so I now have personal ties through Will. I worked with a lot of refugees when working in social special needs and sometimes they were survivors of rape and torture. Due of life circumstances and children, I no longer work with refugees however it is something that I would like to go back to. My time in special needs taught me a lot of skills about working with people who are anxious or very distressed, which I use everyday as a Dentist.
I am the youngest of 3 kids and still get bossed around by my eldest sister, even though I am about to turn 40!
How long have you wanted to be a dentist for, and why?
Since I was 15 it is the only job I have ever wanted to do or was seriously interested in. It was my mother who put it in my head and both my parents are Doctors. She thought I would be well suited to it and it can be a family friendly profession. When I was a small child I was nicknamed ‘chatterbox’ and with dentistry I can have a captive audience all day as they can’t respond back! People can’t be rude or contradict me as I have sharp instruments in their mouth!
I came by work experience, kind of by accident. We had a school careers night and one of my friend’s dads was a dentist. No one was talking to him so I went up and introduced myself and told him about the career path my mum had thought would be a good idea (laughing and saying, ha-ha what would she know!?) and he offered for me to spend 2 weeks with him doing work experience. I did it and absolutely loved it from the first day! He could get people out of pain and was big on educating them about their oral health as it is linked to general health – and I loved that! There is also the artistic aspect of improving people’s smiles and helping them with their self-esteem.
We’d also see mum and dad walk around the community bumping into patients and because of that they were very much a part of the local community. That appealed to me by contributing to the community’s health.
What services does Drummoyne Dental Surgery offer? What can patients expect?
We are very much a family based practice and provide a whole range of dental services including check ups, cleaning, bleaching, cosmetic work, fillings, root canal therapy, implants, snoring treatment and dentures. We have impeccable infection control standards.
We also have a very low staff turnover rate and I can absolutely say that the staff genuinely care about our patients. We get to know them personally and it is a huge part of my job satisfaction. Some kids have come in they’re now 10 and I have known their families from before they were born. Looking after people long term is very rewarding. I care for them with love.
How would you describe your style of dentistry?
Very family oriented and conservative. In the very early stages of decay, early lesions can be reversed. The patient has to be willing for this to work and I will teach them how to look after their mouths in terms of their behaviours with snacking, flossing or how they are brushing. It is called minimal intervention dentistry taught by one of the leading dental schools in Adelaide. I have adopted this as a philosophy as it can mean less biological and financial costs to my patients. It is much more satisfying to work this way and the patient can leave more educated in what they need to do preventatively.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make with their mouth hygiene?
Brushing too hard, not brushing properly and using mouthwash. Mouthwash is mostly a waste of time and whilst it has amazing marketing, it isn’t particularly effective. Often it masks other issues and it seems that because it tastes and feels better people aren’t brushing and flossing properly. I don’t know any dentists who use it.
One of things that is becoming more common due to fad diets and quitting sugar is that people don’t appreciate that what they are using instead of refined sugar, is still naturally occurring sugars like honey, agave syrup, dates in bliss balls etc. People think that when they take refined sugars out of their diet they are doing well by their oral health but are surprised when they get decay. Yes there are health benefits to cutting out refined sugar but I think there is a lack of awareness about the amount of acid and sugar in what they are eating, even if it is deemed a natural food.
What are the top 3 things we should be doing to care for our mouths and gums?
1) Using a really soft toothbrush. I give my patients a child’s toothbrush to use. They also need to spend a bit longer on their teeth – the idea of scrubbing hard for 30 seconds is not right.
2) Flossing. It is really important to clear out any foods and bacteria that can cause decay. People just need to be smart about what they are eating. My role is to educate and if you are having chocolate or having naturally made bliss balls, just have an extra brush that day.
3) Have a water chaser after tea or coffee. It helps to neutralise the acidity and helps to rehydrate, as both tea and coffee are diuretics (they make you pee).
My focus is to empower my patients to take care of their teeth long term because I don’t want to be drilling and filling their teeth for the rest of their lives.
What is your approach with kids or adults who are afraid of the dentist? After 4 years of working in social special needs, I am very good at looking after people who are anxious by building trust and rapport and putting them at ease quickly. They are allowing me into their intimate space, which can be terrifying for some people.
I try to establish why they are anxious and ask them what has happened in the past to work on those issues. If they are in acute pain I need to fix that yet with some patients I just talk to them and do the check up part of the visit and not the clean as that can be too overwhelming for them. If I can find out the issue, I can tailor all of their treatments to them personally. I treat them as a person by developing a trusting relationship so they know I will only do what is in their best interest.
With kids, an appointment first thing in the morning is recommended or sometimes with little kids after they have had a daytime nap and some food. By the end of the day kids have had it and they’re not interested in new environments. While I play with them, like taking them for a ride in the rocket ship (the chair) to introduce them to all my friends (the instruments) I am assessing a lot about what they do with their mouths. If I can get them used to coming and it being a fun place to be it sets them up for positive dental experiences for life.
Being a working mum to 2 young boys, how do you juggle your time and have you found any clever ways to get everything done?
I need to be very organised yet allow my vulnerability. When people offer me help, I will accept their help when I need it. I once said to my husband that either we can pay for marriage counselling or we can get a cleaner! We now have a cleaner. My adorable neighbour, which is one of things I love about where I live, picks up the kids from daycare which makes such a difference to my day. There are no trust issues, she uses our car, feeds them dinner and it has just made such a difference to my life and our family.
Another thing is taking care of myself. I need to take care of me to be the best version of myself to care for my family. It is really positive for my relationships with Will and my kids.
What keeps you centred and grounded?
I love bushwalking with Wild Women on Top and it is one of the things that provides me with sanity especially because I feel I have found my tribe. Songbirds, that I found on IWM, is a mums singing group on Tuesday nights which is a lot of fun. Having a pretty intense job, very young children and a husband that is like a 3rd child (like most women can agree) these things provide me with a sense of self. Oh, and wine!
Favourite spots in the Inner West?
I love the parks adjacent to the East Balmain ferry. I love being by the water and grabbing a great coffee at Euphoria for when the kids are in the playground. I can be by the water and can watch the world go around for awhile.
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