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What does a Dentist do?

Dentists provide services aimed at the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of numerous dental problems and diseases of teeth and gums. Since many dentists are also business owners, a dentist also has administrative duties such as 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.

On a more specialised level, a dentist can look after periodontal and teeth problems that are unique, more advanced or which require specialist care. Specialised services range from oral surgery to orthodontics, implants and gum surgery. Patients may require advanced dental rehabilitations, prosthetic rehabilitation and endodontics, which are part of a specialist dentist's job description. Dentists may specialise after a minimum of five years’ general practice.


What qualifications do I need?

To qualify as a dentist, you must pass matric with a Bachelor's pass. Following that, you must meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university. All applications for admission to MBChB and medical degrees are subject to selection, and due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

The degree you need to become a dentist is the Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS), also called the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BChD). The duration of the course is five 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, master's or doctorate degree - for specialisation in a specific branch of dentistry.

What subjects do I need?

Physical Science 
Life Sciences


Where can I study?

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BChD)

University of Western Cape
Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS)

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BChD)

University of Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS)

Where can I get more info?

South African Dental Association - www.sada.co.za/
The South African Dental Journal - www.journals.assaf.org.za/
Dental Professionals Association - www.dpa.org.za/


Interview with a Dentist

Chris Pistorius | DENTIST | Private Practice

Chris Pistorius | DENTIST | Private Practice


Why did you choose this profession?
I did an aptitude test, which showed that I should study to be a dentist or electrical engineer. I, however, have a big love for people and that pushed me to choose dentistry. 

What training did you undergo and where?
I studied dentistry at Stellenbosch Dental Faculty. It is a five and a half year degree, so you really have to want to do it.

Describe a typical day on the job
My days have a pretty routine setup. My appointment book is mostly full, so I always know who and what is coming next. But there are usually a few surprise visits, with an emergency thrown in from time to time. I also spend a lot of time making people feel comfortable and getting around their anxiety. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy engaging with my clients and helping them. These days we don’t just check your teeth and do fillings – huge advances in the materials we use and technology we have access to make it possible to create the most beautiful smile in a single visit :)

What don’t you like?
Sitting so much!

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I could only study with the help of a student loan. So that, plus the huge expense of setting up a private practice left me with a lot of debt. I am (14 years later) only now paying off the last of it. 

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
I would say the highlight has having my own business and watching it grow over the years. And it’s still going strong. 

What are future goals?
I aim to change the way people perceive dentistry – one patient at a time.

Is experience as important as formal training?
Yes, definitely, and maybe even more important. After five and a half years of studying, you are only half way there. It took me a further five years to really be comfortable in my practice. 

Is there a personality best suited to this work?
You have to be a people’s person, with lots of empathy and patience. It also takes a lot of business skill to run a private practice successfully. You have to be willing to commit a large amount of time and energy (and weekends) to studying and working, if you want to be a great dentist.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Start out by working with/for another dentist; gather as much hands-on knowledge about dentistry and running a business as you can.

Your job in three words
Challenging, (but) big rewards.

Interview date: May 2018