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Over 120 Million Nigerians Grapple with Poor Dentition, Calls for Orthodontist Awareness Grow

A staggering 60% of Nigerians, totaling over 120 million individuals, are reported to suffer from poor dentition and jaw issues, according to the Nigerian Association of Orthodontists (NAO). This revelation comes amid growing concerns over the scarcity of professionals in the field of orthodontics, further highlighting the urgent need for increased awareness and access to oral healthcare services in the country.

Orthodontists, who specialize in correcting teeth and jaw misalignments, play a pivotal role in ensuring optimal oral health and well-being. Failure to address malocclusions, if left untreated, can have significant functional and psychological repercussions.

The President of NAO, Dr. Modupe Adeyinka, expressed grave concerns about the scarcity of orthodontic specialists, stating, “With a population exceeding two hundred million, and less than a hundred practicing orthodontists, there is an evident dearth of orthodontic expertise in our great nation.”

Adeyinka went on to explain that many orthodontic practitioners have sought opportunities abroad, further exacerbating the shortage. She noted, “Some are now working in general hospitals, and the smallest number are operating in private facilities.”

Highlighting the cost associated with orthodontic treatment, Adeyinka emphasized that it often necessitates surgical procedures and extends beyond a single intervention. As part of conference sponsorship, Smile Train has undertaken the training of 24 orthodontists in Basic Life Support—a critical skillset in patient care.

In a bid to raise awareness of conditions impacting dental health, Adeyinka stressed the importance of discouraging children from tongue-sucking habits, as it can adversely affect their dentition.

The NAO President called upon the Federal government to consider including orthodontists as primary healthcare providers under the Health Insurance Authority (NHIA). This, she believes, would significantly benefit individuals who lack the financial means to access orthodontic treatments.

Speaking about the disparity between the number of orthodontists and the patient population, the Vice President of NAO, Prof. Idia Ize-Iyamu, attributed the issue to the “Japa syndrome,” wherein many practitioners have left Nigeria in pursuit of better opportunities abroad. She pointed out that Nigeria, with its population exceeding 200 million, faces an overwhelming ratio of 1 orthodontist to 2 million Nigerians, placing an enormous burden on the association and the nation as a whole.

Ize-Iyamu expressed her regret that the majority of orthodontists are concentrated in Lagos, despite the prevalence of orthodontic issues being higher in the North and South-South regions. She emphasized the association’s commitment to extending their services across the entire country.

To address the shortage of orthodontic professionals, Ize-Iyamu advocated for early prevention and education. She highlighted ongoing programs in primary and secondary schools, wherein students are educated about various mouth alignment issues and offered free health checks. The association’s mission extends beyond education; it also encompasses advocacy and calls for policy implementation to facilitate access to orthodontic treatments.

Ize-Iyamu emphasized the interconnectedness of oral health and overall well-being, citing the link between gum disease and heart disease. She stressed the importance of proper dental hygiene, including regular brushing, to maintain good oral health.

As Nigeria grapples with a significant oral health challenge, the call for greater awareness, policy implementation, and increased access to orthodontic care becomes increasingly urgent.

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