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João Afonso is a General Dental Practitioner based in Cambridge.
How would you characterise your current work?
On a daily basis I encourage patients to look at good oral health as a fundamental part of general good health. I have a special interest in Fixed and Removable Prosthodontics (the branch of dentistry concerned with the design, manufacture, and fitting of artificial replacements for teeth and other parts of the mouth), and spend part of my week in referral practice dealing with advanced and complex cases of oral rehabilitation. It is wonderful to see and feel the deeply transformative power of dental treatment. Smiling is happiness.
I am also involved in interesting conversations about dental issues as a postgraduate tutor at King’s College London, on the M.Clin.Dent. course in Fixed and Removable Prosthodontics.
How do you feel about maths?
I see maths in most things. I even hear maths every day, playing on the radio. I feel comfort in maths, as I think it underpins many of my daily processes and actions. It’s absolutely fundamental.
What is it about your work that is mathematical?
I find various parts of my work mathematical. For example, some fundamental characteristics of the front teeth – see below – that contribute to an attractive smile appearance can be defined. Although considerable variations exist in nature, tooth size and position should be proportionate to ensure the necessary appearance for an aesthetic smile; some fundamental characteristics of the front teeth that contribute to an attractive appearance can therefore be defined. Shape is an important idea in dentistry – it's also interesting to note how surprisingly different the shape of a whole tooth is compared to our expectations, because so much of the tooth is below the gum line.
How do you use maths, calculation or numeracy in your work? What tools do you use to help you?
Form and contour of teeth are generally defined as triangular, ovoid or square.
Studies on the amount of tooth visible in an aesthetic smile show that the width of a central incisor (see below) is roughly 80% of the length, within a certain variable range. Of course these factors must be evaluated while taking other important factors into consideration, such as function and articulation(ability to speak clearly).
Maths also allows us to measure and therefore know and understand ourselves and our bodies better. For example, various studies have concluded that a normal physiological wear of the natural tooth enamel is 0.25 micrometres per year (a micrometre is one millionth of a metre, or 0.001 mm). This knowledge is a valuable tool in monitoring tooth wear development and in identifying a pathological pattern of tooth surface loss, today one of the most increasingly prevalent dental issues.
Do you think maths is creative? If so, how?
I think maths is both straight to the point, but also infinite. Of course maths is creative!
Do you use or rely on any maths that you learnt in school?
On a daily basis, especially measurement and calculation.
How would you change the school curriculum, if you had the chance? Why?
At school, maths has always inspired both love and hate. I have always felt that maths could be my best friend but also my worst enemy. If I had the chance to change the school curriculum I would emphasise the link between subjects, so maths could be used to help us understand things like literature, and the other way around. This way maths might not be so hated but perhaps more clearly seen in different aspects of our lives.
Oh and don’t forget: keep flossing.
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