Thursday, 13 June, 2024
HomeDentistryCape teacher in bid to outlaw teen ‘passion gap’ teeth removal

Cape teacher in bid to outlaw teen ‘passion gap’ teeth removal

A Western Cape teacher has launched an online petition aimed at halting the extraction of children’s healthy front teeth for the so-called “passion gap”, and calling for it to be “illegal for dentists to take out the four front teeth of under 18s” in the province.

The petition, launched by Lynn Sirmonpong last Wednesday, hoped to collect 5 000 signatures, and by Sunday, more than 3 800 people had signed.

Sirmonpong told the Sunday Times she became familiar with the tooth-pulling trend while teaching in Bonteheuwel, on the Cape Flats.

“This odd practice, specifically the extraction of front teeth of minors, came to my attention in 2019/20,” she said. “Initially I was confused when a male student came to school towards the end of the year with a different kind of smile. Then another student expressed her plans to also have her teeth extracted, even though her teeth were perfectly healthy. I found out that peer pressure and family/parental support played a big part in motivating this trend.”

A teaching assistant told Sirmonpong that “that such practice is/was normal for primary school-aged students transitioning to high school”, and also relates to the myth that “the passion gap is good for kissing”.

Sirmonpong said she had yet to do comprehensive research into the trend, but the petition seeks to protect and educate “young people and parents about the repercussions of unnecessarily extracting healthy teeth at an age where adult guidance could prevent the minor from having future regrets as an adult or even immediately, as experienced by the 13-year-old student I encountered in 2020”.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t had much engagement … largely due to the unwillingness of the community to share their stories of regret or even real reasons as to why they have extracted their front teeth,” she said.

“I believe this trend is detrimental to the future of young people … and worth holding the dental practice association and practitioners accountable.”

Professor Veerasamy Yengopal, dean of the dentistry faculty at the University of the Western Cape, supports the objective of the petition, saying “from an ethical point of view, she definitely has a point”.

“I would support an initiative like this, but it will be difficult for the government to enforce it. It is the dentist’s call; a private relationship between the patient and the dentist,” said Yengopal.

Yengopal urged Sirmonpong to write to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) and “tell them to look into this problem because it is happening on a big scale in the Western Cape.”

“We have the largest dentistry school here and this is happening on our doorstep. The regulatory body and the profession must start shouting about it. It cannot be right that this continues to happen.”


TimesLIVE article – Teacher wants law to bite dentists who extract healthy front teeth of Western Cape children (Restricted access)


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