Some have wasted money on treatment they have had to discontinue because of erratic orthodontic services

Medical: Sonam Peldon, a resident of Thimphu who paid Nu 30,000 to have braces fitted on her teeth at the referral hospital last year has to have her teeth checked by an orthodontist every month.

But Sonam Peldon hasn’t seen the orthodontist for four months although she has to see the specialist every month for a routine check-up.

Braces is a device used to align and straighten crooked teeth, overbites and under-bites. People get orthodontic treatment to have better looking teeth. It is also sought for functional reasons like to fix malocclusions.

Sonam Peldon’s check-up was affected as the only orthodontist in the country is on leave frequently. The specialist who is currently on leave is likely to be available only by April 18.

“Meeting the specialist is difficult even when he is in the hospital since there is only one in the country,” Sonam Peldon said.

Oral surgeon Dr Karma Tobgay from the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) said the orthodontist has gone on leave for personal reasons but would re-join from April 18.

Dr Karma Tobgay said that the routine check-up is important for orthodontics because to align the teeth it needs medical attention every few weeks or once in a month depending upon the individual case to ensure the treatment’s effectiveness.

“Not visiting the orthodontist could sometimes lead to further complications like malocclusions, pain and teeth mobility,” Dr Karma Tobgay said.

“Lack of follow ups could also cause trauma to soft tissues. The treatment itself could fail. Sometimes the complications could worsen from before.”

Sonam Peldon has undergone orthodontics treatment for the second time at JDWNRH after terminating the initial one, which cost Nu 15,000. The initial treatment was stopped as result of prolonged absence of the orthodontist.

“I had to remove the previous one in absence of the specialist,” Sonam Peldon said. In total Sonam Peldon has spent Nu 45,000 for two-time orthodontic treatments.

Other dental doctors do not perform the routine check-up for orthodontics.

“They said save of the specialist none could tighten the braces,” she said.

Dr Karma Tobgay said other dental doctors decline to treat because only a trained specialist can deal with orthodontic cases.

Patients are disgruntled with the erratic service.

“Many people who have undergone orthodontics are complaining of unavailability of the specialist when they need help with broken braces and complications like pain,” Sonam Peldon said.

Patients even had to stop the treatment midway in absence of the orthodontist.

“I removed it because the braces snapped and the doctor wasn’t available even after four months of waiting,” a corporate worker, Dechen Tshomo said, adding the braces was removed after learning of possible infections caused from retaining it without the routine check-ups.

While Dechen Tshomo’s dental health showed no improvement, she lost Nu 15,000.

A father of a child from Thimphu who did not want to be named is also facing similar problems.

“My child is midway through treatment and is now having problems to get routine check-ups in absence of the orthodontist who some say is on indefinite leave,” the father said.

Dema from Haa said that her 10-year-old, nephew who is growing two rows of teeth is also waiting to see the specialist after doctors there referred him to the orthodontist. “We have to wait until the orthodontist’s arrival now,” Dema said.

Some patients have to drive to Phuentsholing just to get the routine check-up every few weeks.

“It is inconvenient to get the check-up at Phuentsholing because of difficulty to get breaks in the middle of the academic session,” the father said. “If the treatment cannot be completed, the hospital must refund the sum.”

Meanwhile, the health ministry is training one orthodontist currently. More will be sent for training to cater to the growing demand for orthodontics. “To meet the immediate need, the hospital is exploring options to hire one orthodontist from one of the neighbouring countries,” Dr Karma Tobgay said.

But having only one orthodontist in JDWNRH would not resolve the growing demand for orthodontics from across the country.

“To cover the dzongkhag it is important to now have the facility even in the dzongkhag at least in the referrals and bigger hospitals since the demand for orthodontics is only going to grow as people become more aware of its benefits,” Dr Karma Tobgay said.

Tempa Wangdi