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Become a Dentist
There are good opportunities for those who wish to study to become a dentist in South Africa. Recent studies show that the country is woefully under-supported by dentists. According to the data collected in 2009, there were only around 4,153 dentists working in the country. This equates to 0.085 dentists for every thousand people in the population.
Clearly there are excellent opportunities here if you feel you have what it takes to become a dentist.
What does a dentist do?
A dentist is responsible for providing checkups of a person’s teeth and gums. They can look for early signs of gum disease and other dental problems, and provide treatment for decay and other dental issues. They may also remove teeth and provide false teeth to replace those that are missing.
A dentist should also be good at dealing with all kinds of different people. Some are naturally nervous of visiting the dentist, so having good people skills will help in this profession too.
What training is required to become a dentist?
Not surprisingly you need a degree in order to become a dentist in South Africa. This normally takes five years to achieve, during which time you will undertake a range of theory lessons. You will also undertake clinical work and practical sessions, all done in your choice of dental school.
There are five universities that offer dental degrees and suitable faculties to learn them in. These are in Durban, Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg (there are two in Pretoria). Every degree has a compulsory element of internship to it, so this will give you practical experience you would not otherwise get.
What dental jobs are available and what do they entail?
Obviously you will see lots of vacancies for dentists, but they are not all necessarily the same. For example locum dentists are popular and much sought after; they generally stand in for the regular dentists when they are away. As such these positions can be temporary or part time in nature.
Another example of a dental position that is advertised is one with some kind of specialism. For example one recent ad for a qualified dentist asked for one with particular skills in ‘MFS’, which stands for maxillofacial surgery. Needless to say not all dentists will have such skills as a matter of course. Additional studies are required to get the skills needed in this area.
The main thing to remember is there is a shortage of dentists in South Africa at the moment. So even though you will need to study for a minimum of five years in order to get through your training, you can be sure of finding lots of potential openings for work once you are qualified. So make sure you know all there is to know about becoming a dentist, so you know the path you can take in the future. Dentistry is a rewarding career in any country, and the prospects in South Africa are very good indeed – especially now.