TIGHTEN LAWS TO CURB UN­SCRUPU­LOUS PRAC­TICES

Pub­lic must be aware of risks posed by un­qual­i­fied prac­ti­tion­ers

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

TO­DAY, May 15, has been de­clared as the in­au­gu­ral World Or­thodon­tic Health Day re­cently by the World Fed­er­a­tion of Or­tho­don­tists (WFO) pres­i­dent Dr Al­lan Thom to co­in­cide with the an­niver­sary of WFO’s for­ma­tion back in 1995.

Men­tion the term “or­thodon­tic spe­cial­ists” and the vi­sion of den­tal braces comes to mind. With the na­tion’s grow­ing eco­nomic af­flu­ence, but still rather rudi­men­tary knowl­edge about or­thodon­tic treat­ments, ed­u­ca­tion to avoid the mis­con­cep­tion that braces are for cos­metic straight­en­ing of teeth alone is cru­cial.

In the words of Malaysian As­so­ci­a­tion of Or­tho­don­tists (MAO) pres­i­dent Dr No­raini Alwi, as Malaysian so­ci­ety “is rapidly be­com­ing more af­flu­ent and sta­tus sym­bols be­come more im­por­tant, more peo­ple seek or­thodon­tic treat­ment as it is per­ceived to ac­cord a ‘high sta­tus in so­ci­ety’ to the wearer and some sec­tors are even re­sort­ing to bar­gain ‘fake braces’, with po­ten­tially dis­as­trous ir­re­versible re­sults”.

First estab­lished in 1994, MAO now has a mem­ber­ship of 200 highly ac­cred­ited and qual­i­fied spe­cial­ist or­tho­don­tists, with 70 per cent be­ing Royal Col­lege grad­u­ates. The fact that MAO is now the largest den­tal spe­cial­ist as­so­ci­a­tion in the coun­try speaks vol­umes about the cal­i­bre of spe­cial­ist or­tho­don­tists from Malaysia, says Dr No­raini, a well­known or­tho­don­tist in Kuching.

But, of course, MAO is not just a club of like-minded or­tho­don­tists out to pro­tect their com­mon pro­fes­sional and busi­ness in­ter­ests. It launched its first so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Sarawak gov­ern­ment in 2010 called “The Laila Taib Smile of Hope Project” (TLTSOHP) in mem­ory of the late Puan Sri Laila Taib, the wife of for­mer Sarawak chief min­is­ter Tun Ab­dul Taib Mah­mud, now the Yang di-Per­tua Sawarak.

The project seeks to ex­tend com­pli­men­tary or­thodon­tic treat­ment to chil­dren in or­phan­ages through­out Sarawak. To date, the project has suc­ceeded in screen­ing nearly 600 chil­dren and treat­ing more than 350 cases, in­clud­ing restora­tive work on cleft lip and palate cases.

The TLTSOHP com­mit­tee has now pro­posed to ex­pand be­yond the Laila Taib project to the Sarawak Cleft Lip and Palate Project. Dr No­raini re­lates that the global ra­tio of chil­dren born with cleft lips and palates is one in ev­ery 700 live births, while in Sarawak, new­born cleft cases are es­ti­mated to be one in ev­ery 550 births.

Treat­ments do not come cheap. They start from the first 48 hours of life and can go on till a pa­tient is 25 years old, with the fi­nal surgery. Pae­di­a­tri­cians, ENT (ear, nose and throat) spe­cial­ists, max­illo­fa­cial sur­geons and den­tists all work with or­tho­don­tists as a team, keep­ing track of pa­tients, ap­point­ments and pro­ce­dures through­out.

The com­mit­tee hopes to even­tu­ally see the set­ting up of the first fully holis­tic and ded­i­cated Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for Cleft Lip and Palate in Malaysia and the re­gion in Sarawak. Such a cen­tre will be able to ben­e­fit from proac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion al­ready ini­ti­ated by sim­i­lar cen­tres in Tai­wan and the United King­dom.

Dr No­raini also says MAO has been very ac­tive at in­ter­na­tional lev­els and through its rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Asia-Pa­cific Or­thodon­tic So­ci­ety (APOS), in par­tic­u­lar with find­ing ways to ad­dress the prob­lems caused by a global short­age of or­tho­don­tists due to strin­gent in­take and exit cri­te­ria for such spe­cialised cour­ses and the mush­room­ing of non-ac­cred­ited or­thodon­tic short cour­ses aimed noth­ing ex­cept the pur­suit of quick prof­its by gen­eral den­tists.

To­wards this end, MAO is ac­tively en­gag­ing the Health Min­istry, the Malaysian Den­tal Coun­cil, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional spe­cial­ist as­so­ci­a­tions, APOS and WFO, to reach an un­der­stand­ing whereby mem­bers of these or­gan­i­sa­tions are en­cour­aged to only con­duct qual­ity or­thodon­tic cour­ses in Malaysia in col­lab­o­ra­tion with MAO.

Dr No­raini points out that MAO be­lieves it is cru­cial for the pub­lic to be made aware of the var­i­ous prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the in­creas­ing preva­lence of fake braces and other or­thodon­tic treat­ments of­fered by non-qual­i­fied or­tho­don­tists. It is also in­cum­bent on the gov­ern­ment to look at tight­en­ing laws, such that those in­volved in such un­scrupu­lous prac­tices are se­verely ham­pered if not al­to­gether stopped.

MAO wants to warn the pub­lic that what may ini­tially be treated as a “fun” ex­pe­ri­ence of wear­ing braces may not even­tu­ally turn out so if not prop­erly done by ap­proved spe­cial­ists.

“At times, the teeth and gum (pe­ri­odon­tal tis­sues) struc­tures are dam­aged ir­re­versibly and in worst case sce­nar­ios, tooth loss may also oc­cur,” cau­tioned Dr No­raini.

The or­thodon­tic fra­ter­nity it­self is not se­ri­ously af­fected as such. In­formed mem­bers of the pub­lic who need or­thodon­tic treat­ments know bet­ter than to go for du­bi­ous, un­qual­i­fied prac­ti­tion­ers.

Those whose health and even lives may be at risk are those seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion who think fake braces are just fash­ion ac­ces­sories to be worn to try and im­press friends for cos­metic rea­sons.

Qual­i­fied and ac­cred­ited or­tho­don­tists through­out the coun­try are all listed on the of­fi­cial MAO web­site at www.mao.org.my.

...it is cru­cial for the pub­lic to be made aware of the var­i­ous prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the in­creas­ing preva­lence of fake braces and other or­thodon­tic treat­ments of­fered by non-qual­i­fied or­tho­don­tists.

What may ini­tially be treated as a ‘fun’ ex­pe­ri­ence of wear­ing braces may not even­tu­ally turn out so if not prop­erly done by ap­proved spe­cial­ists.

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