Coimbatore’s preventive paediatric dentist wins an international honour


Preventive paediatric dentist Shifa Shamsudeen has won an international gold award for her super speciality in dental sleep

Preventive paediatric dentist Shifa Shamsudeen has won an international gold award for her super speciality in dental sleep

“If your child is not getting good quality sleep, and psychological factors are ruled out, it’s best to check whether there is a problem with oral cavity,” says Dr Shifa Shamsudeen, one of country’s first preventive paediatric dentists to pass her boards at the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABSM) from Tufts University, Boston. “No one had an idea that dentistry can also have super speciality,” says Shifa who treats children with SDB (sleep-disordered breathing). “Pediatric sleep residency is an integrated programme involving study and practice. The course is about how dentistry is beyond teeth filling, drilling, and extracting decayed tooth. Sleep issues in children is like a slow pandemic.”

Shifa and her team at We Little Clinic in Coimbatore (now also in Chennai) have corrected sleep issues of over 7000 children across the globe with myoline, a patented therapeutic protocol involving breath, muscle and sleep re-training exercises that help children get naturally-aligned teeth. “Abroad, there are dentists and myotherapists. We structured it in India in such a way that dentists themselves can help the patients with exercises.” This treatment protocol has won the clinic, that completes 10 years, an International Award of Excellence (IAE), a UK-accredited award by the Royal College of Edinburugh. “The award covers clinics in the Euro Asia belt. The process was intense involving several rounds by a jury and a vigilant approach,” says Shifa who is back in the city after picking up the award the British High Commission in Chennai.

Dr Shifa Shamsudeen with her award
| Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

Her Institute of Craniofacial Myology and Pediatric Sleep, an exclusive body trains professionals in myoline and pediatric sleep, while Little We line of clinics opened in Karur reaches out to tier 3 and 4 cities.

Clearing ABSM was rigorous, she recalls, as she had to go back and study adult dentistry as well and practice for a specific period to clear the boards. “I took on the challenge as a gold certificate gives me access to universities and research and ultimately introduce quality treatment with an intense and advanced protocol.”

Shifa has been blogging and reaching out on social media about the connection between problems in the oral cavity and sleep for over five years now. As a paediatric dentist, she has seen misaligned jaw lines and under-developed tongues that cause the airways to narrow. While earlier, these problems were thought to be only genetic, today, research says that a number of oral cavity problems in children are a result of poor lifestyle habits, such as bottle feeding. “The mouth or the oral cavity is a window to holistic health,” she reiterates adding that when a child is not getting enough oxygen during sleep, the tissues, including the brain do not get enough rest. As a result the child becomes lethargic during the day.

She adds that breast feeding sets the foundation for well-defined facial and jaw growth. “A comparative study of skulls of pre-historic humans and modern humans shows well-developed U-shaped jaws in the former. To develop jaws, the architect is the tongue and it has to move upwards which happens naturally in breast feeding.”

Dentists are aware that a condition called malocclusion (misalignment) of teeth in children is a symptom that something is not functioning in harmony. This used to be mechanically corrected with braces when the child turned 14, but can now be tackled much earlier. “While dental sleep medicine is popular in the West, in India many cases go undiagnosed and such children are often labelled as ADHD with behavioural and learning issues. We introduced myoline to help children get straight teeth. But the feedback from parents that the child’s snoring stopped, sleeping improved and also performed better at school, gave us a big boost to explore more. We worked backwards, to make families aware and ensure that their child grows up cavity-free, crooked-teeth free, and without any sleep issues. Our focus is prevention and families want this. Parents of a five-day-old infant born during the beginning of COVID-19 drove 18 hours from Hyderabad to get treated for dental sleep. It’s not enough if the child sleeps for eight or 10 hours, it is quality, deep sleep that counts.”

“Worldwide, pioneers in the field from the US, Australia, UK and Singapore are constantly talking about how sleep quality in children is improving. It’s not enough if the child sleeps for eight or 10 hours, quality, deep sleep matters.”

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