Nigeria: Creating Awareness of Orthodontics in Nigeria

17 June 2021

The Clinical Director and Founder, Smile360 Dental Specialists, Dr. Amy Traore-Shumnosho, is passionately creating more awareness of the positive impacts of orthodontists in Nigeria. Rebecca Ejifoma reports that in commemoration of World Orthodontics Health Day, the expert gave insight on the practice of the profession in Nigeria and the need for awareness

For many Nigerians, every problem with the teeth or oral health is the responsibility of the dentist. This is no thanks to poor level of awareness of orthodontics and its existence in the country. That is why the Clinical Director, Smile360, Dr. Amy Traore-Shumnosho, has called for continuous awareness.

She described orthodontics as a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws, misaligned bite patterns, and abnormal alignment of the teeth and jaw.

The expert, who had her training in Dental Studies and specialisation from the University of Toulouse and the University of Paris in France and also in the US, emphasised the role of the orthodontist to the overall in achieving flawless smiles. "An orthodontist is an engineer and architect of your mouth. We ensure that your mouth functions and that you have that beautiful and confident smile that will help to change your life so that smile will impact others as well", she clarified.

Traore-Shumnosho also acknowledged that an orthodontist studies for an additional five years after being a dentist just "so, we have the baggage, competence, and skill to deliver great alignment of teeth, functional bites, beautiful and teasing smiles".

However, to boost its presence globally, the World Orthodontics Health Day (WOHD), marked every May 15, is set by the World Federation of Orthodontics (WFO) to appreciate the profession of orthodontics and create awareness about the rarely talked about profession.

"This day is set aside to celebrate the profession. Although we don't have enough orthodontists in Nigeria, we have various dental centres that are having the orthodontics speciality. We now see two to three orthodontist consultants graduating every year. We are going to see the number grow," she noted.

While giving a rough estimate, she said there are about 5,000 dentists in the country, which translates to only one per cent of orthodontists. Harping on the continuous awareness to upgrade the figure, she noted that "one thing we need to do is to create awareness so that as more orthodontists are being qualified we will have the awareness of what orthodontists can do. The level of awareness is growing thanks to the dental practices at the centres in the various teaching hospitals that are offering this speciality to people".

And with access to social media today, the clinical director noted that people get more information about orthodontics and how they can straighten their teeth. However, she emphasised the need for orthodontists to take control internally so that people get information from the right source like the Nigerian Association of Orthodontics (NAO) website, which affords people a more intense and robust explanation of the profession.

"So WOHD has become necessary today. One day creating awareness has enabled us to make more impact. We are clamouring what orthodontics can do for the population," As the president of NAO, Traore-Shumnosho expressed the need for more awareness about oral health in general so people understand the impact oral health has on their overall health.

While knocking off the idea of considering orthodontics as a nice to have cosmetic procedure, Traore-Shumnosho cautioned that if one's teeth are not in the right position, one stands the chance to lose those teeth. "Those teeth may either get secured because of crowding or getting traumatised because of the condition they are in. For as long as we live, we need our teeth to eat; we need our teeth to function".

The expert soon pointed out that having good health goes beyond the absence of disease, adding that it shows the importance of social wellbeing. "Having teeth that function, and a pleasing smile is not just nice to have, but impacts you emotionally and gives you the confidence you need to take the seat this society has left".

As a rarely recognised profession in Nigeria, the NAO president says what keeps her going as an orthodontist is the transformation she makes on her patients by changing their bite and their smile. "I see the transformation being more deep by how I change the way they comport themselves so the transformation is much deeper than just the smile that we see."

On how to maintain a general oral health, Traore-Shumnosho recommended visiting the dentist twice a year, who would refer patients to an orthodontist, if need be.

Her words: " There is no better time to have your braces on and have your smile fixed because from a distance that smile will connect you to the next person. It is a remote way of making an impact. Because we are wearing our masks there is no better time to take care of our teeth at this time."

And with this year's theme, "Smile bridges distance", the dental specialist says for an orthodontist it is more about the power of a smile. "People should take the opportunity to invest more because a smile can break barriers. It can bring things together and definitely a smile that bridges distance."

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