Dental patients exasperated over late services

Some patients have been waiting for their treatment to begin for almost a year, but they have been told that their turn will come after seven or eight years

Karma Lhamo, a resident of Thimphu, consulted an orthodontist earlier this year and the latter advised her to get braces. Accordingly, her case was registered. However, after waiting for almost a year, she went again to ask when she can start her treatment.

“But I was told that I am in the queue and it will take around seven to nine years for me to get treatment,” said a dismayed Karma Lhamo.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of others like Karma Lhamo waiting to avail dental services from the Jigme Dorji National Referral hospital (JDWNRH).

Norbu Tshering, another dental patient, said they are experiencing significant inconvenience when having to consult an orthodontist.

 “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no such inconveniences as people used to go to private clinics in Jaigaon to obtain braces, but now the private clinics have closed. We have no alternative except to go to the JDWNRH,” he said.

“I lost hope of getting my treatment started when they informed me that I am the 700th in the queue. It might take years for my turn to come,” he added. 

 “But the problem I have will only aggravate if I wait for years. I am also having other issues such as cavities and all. So I feel that my dental issue will further increase due to the delay in treatment,” Norbu Tshering said.

A health staff at the JDWNRH said there are hundreds of people who are waiting in the queue to avail dental services or treatment.

“More than a thousand people have registered, but the first few hundreds must get treatment first,” she said.

The usual orthodontic treatment lasts from 16-18 months; however, it can also take up to 24 months or even longer in some cases.

Talking to Business Bhutan, one of the orthodontists at the JDWNRH, Dr. Ugyen Phuntsho said that the main reason for the inconvenience to patients currently is due to the shortage of space and health staff in the hospital.

“Currently we have four orthodontists in the country, which is quite a good number compared to before. But we don’t have separate chambers for each orthodontist. There are only two chambers for four orthodontists and we have to work shift-wise,” he said.

He added that they have treated around 200 patients up until now.

“However, if we have enough health assistants and chambers, it would be more convenient for both us and the patients,” Dr. Ugyen Phuntsho said.

For the time being, the hospital is preparing to solve the staff shortages and make room for orthodontists as soon as possible. 

“Oral hygiene needs to be addressed throughout the country since studies have already found that people in Bhutan have poor dental cleanliness, which leads to many other diseases,” said the health staff at the JDWNRH.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu