High costs relative to income put many off treatment for toothache, while poor dental education makes decay a serious problem.
Brush your teeth. BLOOMBERG
NEARLY everyone experiences toothache at one time or another. But dental problems occur more frequently in Cambodia, where many people live below the poverty line and education about oral hygiene is rare.
Meas Raksmey, a 23-year-old student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, suffers from toothache but says he tries to ignore the pain, hoping it will soon pass. But often it drags on. "If a toothache hurts like hell, I can't sleep or eat," he said.
"And a week when my teeth are hurting seems to last a month. My face swells up like a balloon. I've had to skip classes because it grew too painful."
According to dentist Chum Mony, most patients only visit his clinic when the pain becomes agonising. "Cambodian patients procrastinate until they cannot deal with their work.
They will only visit a doctor when they get seriously ill," he said, adding that financial constraints and people's ignorance of dental problems create the misconception that having dental examinations every six months is a waste of time.
However, these kinds of problems would not be so serious, if only we started practicing preventative measures from a young age, Chum Mony said.
Sor Chandara, an English teacher who complains about the high price of dental services, still does not have his teeth checked - even though he knows that doing so regularly would keep his teeth healthy.
"I have to spend money on food every day, so how can I afford $15 to $20 per check up?" he asked.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old medical student Hor Lat Soriya always takes proper care of her teeth. She thinks that most Cambodians lack knowledge and understanding of dental problems, and that this is a big social concern.
"Oral hygiene is crucial since we must communicate every day," she said. "We don't know exactly how many people suffer from dental problems, but I believe many Cambodians have this problem."
Brushing your teeth is not enough. Using a mouthwash and floss helps clean them sufficiently, as well as reduces bacteria in the mouth. If left, this bacteria turns into acid and speeds tooth decay.
Chum Mony, dentist at Pachem Dental Clinic, suggests that people eat more fruit and vegetables, while those with sensitive teeth should avoid drinking freezing cold or boiling hot liquids.