Dentists provide services aimed at the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of numerous dental problems and diseases of teeth and gums.
The work of a dentist comprises five basic components:
Diagnostic work: Examination of teeth and the tissues of the mouth to diagnose diseases or abnormalities, injuries, malformations of teeth, gums or related oral structures.
Preventive work: Supplying the patient with information concerning the control of tooth decay, the causes and treatment of dental problems, maintenance of oral hygiene and the removal of plaque.
Corrective treatment: The dentist takes x-rays of the oral structure, cleans teeth, fills cavities, treats abscesses and infections of the gums and extracts teeth. The work also entails creating impressions of the mouth to make false teeth, crowns and bridges.
Surgical procedures: Includes the removal of teeth and the treatment of jaw fractures.
Administrative duties: Bookkeeping and the buying of supplies as well as the supervising and managing of a whole team of co-workers such as dental assistants, receptionists, dental technicians and oral hygienists.
Dentists use masks, gloves and safety glasses to protect themselves and their patients from infectious diseases. They examine teeth, gums and related tissues, using dental instruments, x-rays or other diagnostic equipment, to evaluate dental health, diagnose diseases or abnormalities, and plan appropriate treatments. They administer anaesthetics to limit the amount of pain experienced by patients during procedures, and treat exposure of pulp by pulp capping, removal of pulp from pulp cavity, or root canal, using dental instruments. The pulp chamber and canal are filled with endodontic materials. Diseased tissue is removed using surgical instruments, and irritating margins of fillings and correct occlusions eliminated using dental instruments.
Dentists design, make or fit prosthodontic appliances, such as space maintainers, bridges or dentures, or write fabrication instructions for dental technicians. Dentists write prescriptions for antibiotics or other medications. Teeth can be bleached, cleaned or polished to restore their natural colour, and fluoride or sealants applied to the teeth. They also perform oral or periodontal surgery to the jaw or mouth. They plan, organise or maintain dental health programmes and produce or evaluate dental health educational materials.
Dentists may specialise after a minimum of 5 years’ general practice in:
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course.
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Prospective candidates undergo selection before admission to degree courses.
Degree: BDS or BChD - UP, UWC, UL, UKZN, Wits
Duration of the course: 5 years full-time study. Practical and clinical work is done in the dental hospital attached to the university.
Dentists must register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa after completion of the required training.
Further studies can be undertaken: honours, masters or doctors degree for specialisation in a specific branch of dentistry.
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Tel: (012) 338 9300 Fax: (012) 328 5120
South African Dental Association (SADA)
Private Bag X1
Tel: (011) 484-5288 Fax: (011) 642-5718
Toll Free: 0800 11 07 25
Department of Health
Private Bag X63