SADA was officially established in 1998, however, its history spans over 120 years in various representative body formations, industry meetings and deliberations.
By 1900, dentistry was recognised as a profession rather than a trade in South Africa, however, dentists had very little contact and no formal structures existed for professional, political or social interaction.
A number of dental societies were formed but often disappeared or joined up with other groups.
Some notable Regional Dental Societies which were formed over this time include:
- The Natal Dental Association, the first known dental society in South Africa, established in 1897;
- The Cape of Good Hope Dental Society which was the first recorded society in the Cape Province which later changed its name to The Dental Society of the Cape Province;
- The Dental Association of Johannesburg which was well established by 1919 around the same time as the establishment of the Pretoria Dental Society;
- The Transvaal Dental Society which was officially formed in 1928;
- The Algoa Bay Dental Society (later The Port Elizabeth and Districts Dental Society) which was founded in 1919; and
- the Orange Free State Society which was inaugurated in August 1920 after an unsuccessful attempt to form a dental society in the Orange River Colony in 1909.
- In September 1900, it was proposed that a Dental Society be formed in South Africa, on the back of the British Dental Association. However, the country was politically divided and the Anglo Boer War delayed any further talk of developing a national association.
In 1922, after years of unsuccessful discussions, the dental societies of the Orange Free State, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth unified to form the Dental Association of South Africa (DASA). One of the aims of this association was to protect the interests of the profession and safeguard the public against quackery.
DASA formed a legal entity and introduced the DASA Articles of Association which were incorporated in December 1935. This gave the association official recognition and enabled it to present a united voice for the dental profession.
In March 1939, DASA agreed to form an affiliation with the Federation Dentaire Internationale (FDI).
During the Apartheid era, people of colour were largely excluded from studying dentistry in South Africa and most of the Black, Indian and Coloured dentists trained abroad. When they returned, they were restricted to the areas in which they were permitted to practice.
As a result of such political perceptions, “non-white” dentists did not join DASA, forming other bodies, allied to their political affiliations, instead.
In 1990-1993, DASA began actively engaging with the other major dental groups with the aim of uniting the dental profession and creating a single representative body. These discussions included The Independent Dental Practitioners Association (IDPSA), The National Medical and Dental Association (NAMDA), and the National Dental Forum (NDF).
On Saturday the 28th of February 1998, consolidation of the dental profession was approved by association members and the newly named South African Dental Association or SADA came into being.
In 2011, in compliance with legal requirements and to improve on association governance and administration, a new constitution – Memorandum of Association – was placed before the SADA membership.
The adoption of this memorandum ensures the successful continuation of the association and its relevance to all dental practitioners.