Dr. Sridevi Padmanbhan, (Hon. Secretary, IOS)
Dr. Srikrishna Chalasani (President, IOS)
When Covid19 descended upon us at the beginning of year 2020, the Indian Orthodontic Society (IOS) together with the rest of the world watched this once in a lifetime experience unfold with disbelief and consternation. We recalled clearly as the 24th IOS Postgraduate Student Convention was the last physically organized event held in Feb 2020 in Hyderabad. This was just a few weeks before a nation of billions went into lockdown.
Covid19 guidelines and protocols
Although life came to a grinding halt, it soon became apparent that the Covid19 pandemic will be prolonged. One of the first priorities of the IOS was to educate the large body of its members on safe practice during this pandemic. Sourcing information from both national and international guidelines, the IOS published Covid19 recommendations for dental and specifically Orthodontic practices. The public awareness committee of the IOS were also tasked to create content for the public and to provide information for patients who could not visit their orthodontist.
Covid19 did not merely impact clinical practice. More than 300 Orthodontic programs in different dental institutions within India were also affected. The IOS, in a proactive bid to allow postgraduate students to attend their exams safely, wrote to the regulatory body of Dental education in India to suggest suitable modifications to allow examinations to continue. Even the Indian Board of Orthodontics, the IBO’s written examinations could continue and were conducted online across 24 centers across India.
Continuing education programs within the IOS calendar were immediately switched to a virtual format. In addition to the scheduled events, Dr.Silju Mathew and Dr.Sridevi Padmanabhan started the Illuminati Series in August 2020. This series included international speakers who conducted lectures almost every week. The members of the IOS will remember this period with great appreciation as numerous orthodontic illuminaries across the globe shared their experience and expertise. Since January 2021, the Illuminati series has continued as the Master Class series and is now being held as the IOS Friday rendezvous from 2022.
All in all, about twenty international webinars were conducted in the year 2020-2021. Two major events such as the Orthobyte and Orthosynergy were conducted online to allow IOS members an opportunity to present their work online. To further boost morale amongst members, numerous cultural programs showcasing the talents of IOS members including online yoga and meditation were also conducted. Despite being known as the Covid19 years, 2019-2021 was probably the most active calendar year of the IOS.
Governance and leadership
The annual conference of the IOS was postponed from November 2020 to Sep 2021 extending the term of the elected Management Committee. The meetings of the committee members were conducted online and this actually promoted more effective engagement with other sub-groups such as the study groups. The management committee continued their welfare schemes and even launched IOS CARE and IOS PROTECT during this time.
With the onset of the second wave of Covid19, the country and the IOS reeled under the increased burden of hospitalization and oxygen deficiency. The IOS launched the COVID TASK FORCE led by Dr.Srikrishna Chalasani with representatives across the country to help the members of the IOS source for oxygen and medical care.
The challenges of DIY Orthodontics
Covid19 did not spare orthodontic practices and indeed did create other problems such as Do-it-yourself (DIY) aligners. Such companies started marketing extensively to offer ‘Home Orthodontics’. To educate the public, the IOS issued an advisory on World Orthodontic Health Day in May 2021. The IOS issued warnings to the public on the perils of quick fix solutions and stressed the importance of seeking the services of a qualified orthodontist. This led to the advent of a digital media campaign against DIY aligners in Aug 2021 and a new website www.bracesspecialists.com was created for public awareness.
As a result of strong representations both at the Dental Council of India (DCI) and Ministry of Health (MOH) highlighting the several violations concerning DIY-aligners, the DCI issued a public notice on 27th December 2021 and cited the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulations) Act, 2010, Dentist Act, 1948, and Revised Dentists (Code of Ethics) Regulation, 2014.
The IOS will continue its hard work to educate the public regarding DIY aligners and hopes to join other organizations within the APOS to fight this challenge.
Life has slowly returned to near normal as more residents get vaccinated. Work routine and travel has resumed and more IOS programmes will be conducted physically. The Covid19 pandemic has taught us valuable life lessons. The isolation and social distancing have prioritized human relationships. As new heroes were born every day, the importance of team spirit, purpose and working towards a common goal and the benefits realized has made it a notable experience.
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart