By Chioma Obinna
With over 50 percent of Nigerian population battling with poorly arranged teeth, experts have decried dearth of orthodontist specialists in the country, saying Nigeria has only 41 orthodontists serving a population of 170 million people.
Top members of the Association who spoke to journalists during their 10th Annual Conference in Lagos explained that the dearth of orthodontists was affecting treatment of patients, hence the need for steps to be taken to increase the number.
The members who took turns to address issues concerning the practice in Nigeria stressed the need for massive awareness and access to orthodontic care for underserved populations across the country. “We hope to achieve this through orthodontic screening and educational programmes in various schools.”
Speaking, the immediate past President of the Association, Prof. Olayinka Otuyemi, said a country like Brazil has over 250,000 orthodontists, whereas Nigeria has a paltry 41 of them.
“We need to develop capacity and government really needs to come in to improve facilities for training because most of our hospitals in terms of facilities are not doing well,” he said.
Olayinka noted that over the years, the type of patients seeking orthodontic treatment has changed from adolescent patients to adult patients, adding that globally the percentage of adults seeking treatment has increased to 25 per cent.
“We need to understand ways of treating adult patients, as they are quite different from adolescents in terms of behavioural, managerial and the problem they are having,” he added.
On her part, the General Secretary of the association, Dr. Nkiru Folaranmi, said awareness and training of post graduate students were needed despite the fact that dentists find it difficult to settle in Nigeria.
According to him, part of the reason for the dearth of orthodontists was because many of them do not want to practise in the country. “We are calling on young dentists to major in orthodontics because only few are present in the country and the workload is overwhelming.”
He called on the government to focus on improving graduate training programmes, so that more specialists will be graduating in medicine and dentistry.
The immediate past president of NAO, Dr. Oluranti Da Costa, called on the government to join the association in raising awareness on the importance of the specialty. He said orthodontics was not all about cosmetic treatment, but therapeutic as well. “We also tackle disfiguration in patients with facial abnormalities.
The Vice President of the association, Dr. Babtunde Ogunbanjo, said the notion that orthodontic treatment was only meant for children should be discarded as adult patients were on the rise.