By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, convened orthodontists across Africa for a week-long workshop in Nairobi in an effort to enhance oral health among patients with clefts.
This was contained in a press release by Smile Train’s PR and Communications Manager for Africa, Emily Manjeru, made available to Summit Post Thursday.
Every three minutes, a child is born with cleft, which is a gap on the upper lip and or palate. Children with clefts present unique dental challenges including malpositioned teeth and jaws, misaligned bite patterns and poor overall oral health. These challenges not only affect their ability to feed, but also their social interactions.
The workshop, which was led by Prof. Puneet Batra, Professor and Director of the Post Graduate Board of Studies at the Faculty of Dental Sciences Manav Rachna Dental College in India, convened orthodontics professionals from 11 countries across Africa. It sought to upskill the professionals and bring quality comprehensive cleft care as close to the patient as possible.
Speaking during the workshop, Smile Train Program Director, East and Southern Africa Jane Ngige-Muturi said: “Our endeavor as Smile Train is to enhance the quality of life of the patient, going beyond cleft surgery to providing comprehensive care including orthodontics for those who need it most. Therefore, we have convened professionals from different parts of Africa to ensure that patients can access free, high quality orthodontics services as close to their homes as possible thus live a better life in their adult years.”
On his part, Prof. Batra noted that the challenge with orthodontics is that the results may not be immediately noticeable. With early intervention, however, patients with clefts have better outcomes.
“Clefts are a common birth difference, but quality orthodontics are lacking in low- and middle-income countries. Children grow up with maligned dental features and poor oral health, which are best addressed through preventative oral health care and various surgical procedures. Cleft orthodontics take time and patience since the results are not immediate. Workshops such as these enhance efficiency and consistency among the caregivers resulting in better facial and dental outcomes in adulthood,” said Prof. Batra.
Smile Train has active programs in 42 countries across Africa with more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent. Through strategic partnerships at the local and international level, Smile Train provides funding towards quality healthcare capacity building and advocacy to increase access to safer surgeries and comprehensive cleft care in low- and middle-income countries.
Recently, Smile Train has broken ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Centre to build the capacity of cleft professionals to dispense global standards of care at the local level.