Student Dreams of Building Orofacial Pain Clinic in Nigeria

Nmandi Anosike

Nnamdi Anosike will never forget the 12-year-old patient he examined at a Nigerian dental clinic a few years ago.

“The agony on her face, every day I see that,’’ remembers Anosike, who is enrolled in RSDM’s Internationally Trained Dentists program, which helps professional dentists from overseas obtain their DMD degree.

The young girl suffered from constant, excruciating tooth pain, and yet Anosike could find no sign of decay. It turned out to be his first time treating a case of trigeminal neuralgia, a rare disorder that results in chronic pain of the mouth and face.

The girl was given a medication that provided some relief, but the family had trouble affording it. Plus, they had to travel across two states in Nigeria to reach the clinic. Anosike never saw the patient again.

But the experience inspired his plans to start the first orofacial pain clinic in Africa within five years of graduating from RSDM. “I want to set up a center so I can provide better situations for patients,’’ says Anosike, who graduated from dental school at Nigeria’s University of Lagos. “Where I come from, orofacial pain as a specialty is still very much in its infancy.”

RSDM’s Center for Temporomandibular Disorders and Orofacial Pain is internationally recognized for its work in the field, an emerging speciality. Faculty experts care for many patients with rare pain disorders and syndromes that have been misdiagnosed by previous providers. Others have produced innovative research. Anosike was a resident in the department before he enrolled in RSDM’s Internationally Trained Dentists program.

In Nigeria, dental treatment can be scarce and inaccessible and sometimes patients rely on spiritual healers  and non-licensed street medicine vendors to alleviate pain and sickness. Anosike hopes to establish the non-profit center partly through contributions and partly through some of his own salary from working in the U.S. He envisions building a team to train Nigerian practitioners and eventually running it as a combination orofacial pain specialty center and dental clinic.