Fiona Ligertwood found her lifelong passion after a high school work experience placement in a dental practice. She studied in Perth, attaining her dental qualifications at Curtin University, and after marrying a military man, moved to Canberra around nine years ago.
“As a high school student, like most 15-year-olds, I had no idea what career path I was intending on pursuing,” said Fiona.
“The work experience program really gave me the vision of where I wanted to head.
“Thinking about what drew me to a dental hygiene career, I think when you’re in healthcare, it’s a calling. You want to make a positive impact on people’s lives, and the science and health aspect of dentistry really appealed to me.”
Over the course of her career, Fiona has practised as a dental hygienist in private general dental and specialist periodontal practice. She has taught at Canberra Institute of Technology, is a professional speaker and consulted and coached dentists and hygienists in a private consulting capacity throughout Australia within dental hygiene and dental hygiene programs.
Fiona currently works at the busy Kingston dental practice, Oasis Dental, where she has been for 18 months.
“When the dental hygienist position became available at Oasis Dental, I knew I had to apply. The dental work that I had seen from patients who attended this practice was outstanding,” Fiona said.
“As a dental hygienist, working with a clinical dental team who are perfectionists with high attention to detail is a dream come true. The importance of dental fillings and crowns that contour and fit the tooth perfectly significantly impacts the outcome of the patient’s oral health, and the outcome that I am able to achieve as a dental hygienist.
“Gum disease is nasty. It is a silent disease, meaning it rarely gives any obvious signs or symptoms of its existence. And most people discover they have gum disease when either their teeth become loose or wobbly, or the dental professional discovers it in a routine dental examination.”
“Over time, the tartar [the calcified soft plaque] builds up on people’s teeth. I find most people don’t understand the impact that tartar causes when it accumulates around the teeth and gums.”
Tartar is porous and it provides a haven for bacteria to harbour. Once the tartar has formed, it is not removable with tooth brushing or flossing. Over time, the bacteria harboured by the tartar and soft plaque that sits in and around the gums creates an infection that can lead to gum disease.
Without professional removal, tartar and infection can cause the gum to loosen and dissolve away, and the bone supporting the teeth, leaving the tooth less supported so it becomes wobbly and loose.
Current studies indicate that gum disease is very prevalent. Nearly 48 per cent of the Australian population have a gum infection and disease that has caused the gum and bone to dissolve away from the tooth. Still, most people do not realise they have it.
The latest research links gum disease to heart disease and diabetes and Alzheimer’s as well. Further research into these links is underway on the inter-relationship between oral disease and whole-body health.
“I decided very early on in my career that my focus and passion was working with adults treating and preventing gum disease,” said Fiona.
“Nothing gives me greater fulfilment than having a patient who has active gum disease and taking them on the journey of really understanding this nasty disease, what is needed to treat and manage it, and then seeing the result when the initial course of treatment is completed.
“After being in this profession for nearly 30 years, nothing gives me greater joy than making a significant difference in a patient’s oral health and life!” Fiona said.
If you would like to make a dental appointment, contact Oasis Dental on 6162 3888.