Dr. Arun B.Chitharanjan has been the Head of Orthodontics at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai, India since 2005. He has also been the Vice Principal, Faculty of Dental Sciences, SRU since 2008.
The Department of Orthodontics at SRU has been a TF partner since 2007 and they have been successfully running and expanding the project since then.
Good oral hygiene is critical, as is the work of dentists and orthodontists in correcting the bite for healthy chewing, speaking and breathing. Continued dental assessments, oral health education, cleaning, extractions, and orthodontic treatment are vital to ensure that children maintain healthy teeth and are able to smile confidently.
“The role of the orthodontist starts right from the day the baby is born and lasts up to 10 to 15 years,” Dr Arun notes. “When we get them at the right time, the treatment result at the end of the day is best.”
“In our country, a very high percentage of these individuals come from a low socio-economic status or from rural areas. If we do not go out and help them, many of them would be deprived of this treatment,” he notes.
The partnership in India has grown as more districts are seeking community-based rehabilitation (CBR). In India, a major barrier to providing comprehensive healthcare is the long distances and poor transportation for families living in rural areas. In response, the Speech and Dental departments at SRU teamed up to train CBR workers to provide basic follow up in their communities.
“What is unique about this project is that we go to the patient. All our patients are rural so we travel about 200 kilometres to treat these patients,” Dr. Arun notes. “We don’t monitor on a daily basis, because orthodontics is a slow-moving process, so we see them about once a month. But what needs to be done on a daily basis by the patient is basic oral hygiene. We will not be able to move teeth effectively if they teeth are not in a satisfactory state.”
CBR workers are trained to identify, screen, document and refer individuals to the hospital. They are also trained to provide basic speech correction services in a child’s home or school, under the supervision of a Speech Therapist.
As a result, the project has provided identification, referral, surgery, speech correction, dental and orthodontic care, to more than 300 children with cleft lip and palate.