TIGHTEN LAWS TO CURB UNSCRUPULOUS PRACTICES
Public must be aware of risks posed by unqualified practitioners
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.