line line line

Dentists form the University of Tartu cooperate with Vietnam doctors in curing children with oral clefts

Mart Veliste 
AUKE, Tartu Ülikool

It is little known, that Estonia cooperates with Vietnam in the field of medicine. It was in 2012, that a project began, which aim was to increase medical science cooperation between universities of Estonia, Vietnam, Sweden, Norway and Poland. The project is a part of the SIDA program that is funded by the Swedish government and has the mission of decreasing poverty in the world.

Hue ülikool

Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy

Doctoral students from Vietnam

The initial aim of SIDA in Estonia-Vietnam cooperation was to help increase the skillset of teaching staff in Vietnam. The partners for Tartu University in Vietnam are Danang University of Medical Technology and Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy. As a part of the project Estonian doctors (Doctor Triin Jagomägi, docent Katre Maasalu, Professor Sulev Kõks) have given lectures in the universities. As a part of the cooperation multiple researches have been conducted and scholarly articles published.

Furthermore, currently there are many doctoral students from Vietnam studying in the University of Tartu. At the Institute of Dentistry there are second year doctoral student Son Minh Nguyen and first year doctoral student Thai Van Nguyen. In their research both of them focus on the Vietnamese population. More precisely, Son researches the state of the temporomandibular joint in the DaNang region and Thai is specialized on children with cleft lip and cleft palate.

A research trip to Central-Vietnam

In March a group of scientists will head to Central-Vietnam, Hue, where in the duration of a week they will see around 100-150 children with cleft lip and cleft palate. In the process materials will be collected for Thai’s doctoral thesis. Although, this type of medical fieldwork has taken place in Hue for a decade thanks to cooperation with Korea, nobody has so far done research and collected data on the patients nor evaluated the healing results. The team going form Estonia composes of Thai Van Nguyen, Doctor Triin Jagomägi and Speech-language pathologist Legle Lehes. They will be joined by Son Minh Nguyen who already resides in Vietnam.

The team will conduct speech research, dental x-rays and general check-ups of tooth health. Doctor Jagomägi explains the project’s relevance: “All patients shall receive a written summary of the health of their teeth and a dental x-ray picture, which might be their very first. This way we hope to take the first steps in showing how important it is to achieve a minimally noticeable oral clefts and understandable speech, which would then help the child to manage in society in the future.”

Hue hambaravi

Hue University’s dental department

Oral clefts

Non-syndromic oral clefts are one of the most common congenital birth defects worldwide that affect 1/500 to 1/2500 live births depending on geographic origin. Thai Nguyen has said that alltough yearly around 130000 children are born with oral clefts in Vietnam, very little research has been conducted on the matter. Although the causes are not fully understood, it is accepted that genetic (chromosomal abnormalities) and environmental factors contribute to the condition (smoking, alcohol consumption, acid folic and zinc deficiencies, and use of non-prescription medication during pregnancy).

The healing process of children with oral clefts is long. It begins with surgery closing the cleft and should continue with solving speech and other problems in different age periods. But in Vietnam the curing possibilities are limited. Most surgeries are done by foreign medical teams, as then the surgery is free for the patient. Usually proper care is nor affordable for the families. In comparison, in Estonia for patients with oral clefts all the necessary expenses are covered by Health Insurance Fund until the age of 19.



Son Minh Nguyen, Minh Khac Nguyen, Saag M, Jagomagi T. “The Need for Orthodontic Treatment among Vietnamese School Children and Young Adults”, International Journal of Dentistry, 2014
Nguyen Minh Son, Voog-Oras Ü, Jagomägi T, Nguyen Toai, Saag M „Tooth Loss and Risk Factors in Vietnamese Elderly“, International Dental Journal, 2015 (abstract)
Minh Son Nguyen, Mare Saag, Van Nho Le, Thuy Trang Nguyen, Bui Bao Tien Nguyen, Triin Jagomagi „The Assessment of facial golden proportions in Vietnamese females”. Journal of Practical Medicine, published by Ministry of Health of Vietnam, 2014; 944:418-421
Nguyen Minh Son; Ho Duy Binh; Minh Khac Nguyen; Maasalu K, Kõks S, Märtson A, Saag M, Jagomägi T. “The severity of malocclusion in Vietnamese osteogenesis imperfecta patients” (in press)
Minh Son Nguyen, Saag M, Nho Van Le, Trang Nguyen Thuy, Jagomagi T, “The golden proportion in facial soft-tissues of Vietnamese females“, Stomatologija, 2015 (in press)