Dental braces among Rwandan youth: A trend or medical concern?

By Jane Babirye
On 4 August 2023 at 08:24

I’m no active TikTok user but every now and then, I come across hilarious videos from my contacts who religiously use the app.

The recent one in my gallery is one that shows the ‘bandwagon’ Rwandan girls are engaging in lately.

Out of the five listed acts, one caught my attention: the use of ‘braces’.

All along, I thought braces were for medical reasons, simply because while I was in primary school, my desk mate had them, and oh boy, how she hated them.

If only she knew back then that what was a ‘nightmare’ to her, will years later be an ‘in thing’ for many.

We asked some of the youth we found wearing braces who told us the reason behind.

Yannick Rutera a university student informed us that he wears braces as per ‘dentist orders’. According to Rutera, he has been having his braces on since early 2021.

“Before getting braces, my teeth were not properly aligned but now they are. In the beginning it was difficult having them on. However as time passed, I got comfortable with them and now I like them although I am looking forward to removing them completely,” he said.

Rebecca Ikaze, a young girl who acquired her braces recently also notes that she had them for health purposes.

“It was my dad’s decision that I get braces, his reasons were convincing and so I obliged,” she stated.

“My smile was bad that I never wanted to smile,” said Jane Kanyana when asked why she wears braces.

Central Coast Orthodontics define braces as dental tools (made out of metals) that help correct problems like; crowding, crooked teeth or teeth that are out of alignment.

According to Dr. Alphonse Rugambarara, a dentist at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), the main reason for getting braces is indeed for aesthetic reasons.

“Everyone wants to have a beautiful smile and so yes, braces help them acquire that. However, for us as dentists, we see it as a medical concern if one has ‘malalignment,” he explained.

He added that malalignment is a danger to the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) since someone can’t chew properly, reason braces are recommended to prevent such problems.

Dr. Rugambarara added that malalignment poses a danger to the TMJ as it can impede proper chewing. That’s why braces are recommended to prevent such issues.

How do braces work?

According to Dr. Rugambarara, braces are for anyone whose teeth are misaligned. However, the recovery period and results vary from patient to patient.

“If a person has less than three teeth that are misaligned, it takes them a shorter period of between six to twelve months to recover compared to one with both jaws misaligned,” he explained.

“In addition, children who use braces see results before adults who use the same braces. This is because children’s bones are softer than those of adults,” added Dr. Rugambarara.

Although braces have little to no negative side effects, Dr. Rugambarara cautions parents against taking children under the age of twelve to get braces.

He instead advises them to get kids retainers to prevent any possible misalignment.

Dr. Rugambarara further urges those with braces to always visit their dentists at least once a month for either tightening or a follow up.

A proper mouth care routine (brushing at least twice a day especially after meals) is also recommended for those wearing braces to prevent ‘periodontal disease’ caused by plaque buildup.

Types of braces

According to Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit American academic medical center based in Cleveland, braces come in varied types.

Metal braces: Also known as traditional metal braces, these use stainless steel bands, brackets and wires to gently shift your teeth over time. A dentist or orthodontist will bond a bracket on each tooth then place a thin flexible arch wire over the brackets.
Ceramic brace: Sometimes called clear braces, their wires and ligatures are tooth-colored so they blend in with one’s smile.

Lingual braces: These go on the back surface of your teeth instead of the front. People who choose lingual braces do so because they don’t want other people to tell they have braces.

Self-litigating braces: They look similar to traditional metal braces only that instead of ligatures (tiny elastic bands), they use a built-in system to hold the arch wire in place.

Clear aligners aka invisible braces: Instead of brackets and wires, they use a series of custom-made trays to straighten your teeth overtime.

Braces are for anyone whose teeth are misaligned. Net photo