To assist you in making an informed choice regarding your future career interest we introduce the dental health team below. All of the members of the dental team contribute to the well being of your oral health. Each and every member of the team plays a vital role in preventive dentistry and it should be remembered that this team has been created in your best interests.
Your dentist is the most important member of the dental team and is the first person to examine your mouth including teeth, gums, tongue and the soft tissue lining. Your dentist is able to diagnose cavities and possible problem areas such as gum disease, crooked teeth, cancer of the mouth and other medical conditions which may present oral symptoms.
Dentists are able to fill and repair most teeth damaged by decay, replacing missing teeth and treat gum disorders. In order to aid diagnosis, your dentist may have to rely on various diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays or models of your mouth. By treating early signs of disease they are able to prevent the further development of problems.
The receptionist is usually the first person with whom you have contact in the dental office. Her duties include the answering of the telephone and setting of the appointments. She administers the office and ensures that you are welcome in reception and waiting room areas are neat and pleasant.
The Dental Assistant works closely with the dentist in the operatory. His/her involvement in your treatment starts with settling you comfortably into the treatment chair, assisting the dentist by preparing the correct equipment and mixing the appropriate materials needed for a particular procedure. As a specially trained person she/he is able to explain the procedure to you and also ensures that the operatory and instruments are kept clean and sterile.
The Oral Hygienist works very closely with the dentist by providing education in oral health care. She will advise on how and when regular brushing and flossing of the teeth and gums should take place. Being university trained she can advise on the importance of the diet in the prevention of tooth decay and the use of fluorides. She will clean and polish teeth in an attempt to improve or maintain the health of your mouth by the removal of dental plaque. As part of your preventive programme the oral hygienist may apply fluoride and fissure sealants where necessary.
The Dental Technician is a highly skilled and qualified person with at least four years training in a laboratory. The dental technician makes crowns, bridges, inlays, dentures and orthodontic appliances as prescribed by the dentist or specialist. In all instances these items are returned to the dentist or dental specialist for professional fitting.
Upon reaching a diagnosis your dentist may refer you to a dentally trained colleague for advice or treatment. Certain dentists may place special emphasis on or limit their practice to children’s dentistry (Paedodontics). Paedodontics is not a recognized register speciality at this time with the statutory body (HPCSA). The Paedodontist will aim to create an atmosphere in the dental office that will encourage children to visit the dentist regularly and receive good preventive dental care from a young age.
Other dentists may place emphasis on or limit their practice to root canal treatment (Endodontics). This may include the treatment of tooth abscesses or injury of the tooth nerve. Endodontics is also not a recognised register speciality at his time with the HPCSA.
There are five Dental Specialities which one may register as with the HPCSA. All of which require a minimum of three years full time post-graduate study, leading to a higher qualification. These are:-
Orthodontists straighten crooked teeth or teeth that do not fit together properly and attend to malformations of the jaw and/or joint disorders. An increasing number of children and adults chew better, look better and their teeth last longer as a result of orthodontic treatment.
A Prosthodontist specializes in restorative dentistry. This involves endodontics, the restoration of teeth with inlays, crowns, bridges and denture construction. A prosthodontist also undertakes the restoration of implants, the construction of missing facial parts such as ears, noses and eyes and the treatment of some joint disorders.
Maxillo Facial and Oral Surgeons are concerned with the surgical removal of impacted and unerupted teeth. They correct deformities of the jaw, cleft palates and treat broken jaws and joint disorders. They form part of the dental team concerned with implant dentistry.
A Periodontist diagnoses and treats gum disease. This involves treatment of the gums, root surfaces and surrounding bone. A periodontist also places implants in the jaws and is responsible for maintaining the teeth, gums and implants in good health.
The Oral Pathologist is involved is involved in the diagnosis of disease, its causes, processes and effects on the mouth and surrounding structures. The diagnosis may require the use of several different investigation procedures. The oral pathologist may recommend and assist with treatment of the patient.