– Dr Mmusho J. Tladi
“I have a dream…,” exclaimed Martin Luther King in front of an audience at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Today, his dream is a reality. We too have dreams. It may not be to a large audience that we announce what our dreams are. The truth is each of us has a dream that we desire to see fulfilled.
Hello, my name is Dr Mmusho J. Tladi.
I work as a Dentist in Mokopane Hospital, which is situated in the township of Mahwelereng. Of the many dreams that I have too, one of them is to help you realize your dream of becoming a dentist. Know this one thing first and foremost: IT IS POSSIBLE!!! You can become a dentist! Yes, you!
So what do Dentists do? Dentists work mainly with abnormalities and diseases that affect the head and neck. The eyes, ears, nose and throat are excluded. We identify, prevent and treat diseases and abnormalities that emanate from the mouth and jaws.
Examples include the removal of decayed teeth, the filling of teeth with cavities, the treatment of gum disease and of diseases affecting tissues in the mouth and lips. We also fit in dentures (false teeth) and other tooth-replacing prostheses like crowns and bridges.
Dentists can work in a public or private hospital, in a privately owned dental practice or in outreach projects like the Transnet Phelophepha project.
To become a dentist, you need to have a passed and completed, in addition to other subjects, English, Mathematics, Life sciences and physical science in matric. The specifics of the level of performance in each of these subjects may vary with the different universities. For these specifics consult the entry requirements of the universities that offer dentistry.
These are Wits University, University of Pretoria, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of the Western Cape to mention but a few. It is imperative also that one’s year end grade eleven results are good to enable one to apply to secure a place for training.
Dentistry is mostly practical (hands-on). From my personal observation, I think it is 60% practical and 40% theoretical. It is a stressful and demanding career and thus requires persistence, patience and hard work.
It is immensely interesting and rewarding though. Interpersonal skills are also imperative given the fact that dentists work with people.
My journey to becoming a dentist started in a career as a dental assistant. After an unsuccessful attempt at digital engineering, I got a job as a dental assistant after applying for posts advertised in the newspapers. I only wanted to find something to do at the time. The dental fraternity was new to me at the time so I had a lot to learn. My interest in the career was birthed on the job.
On advice of one of my colleagues and a desire to grow in the knowledge of my new-found interest, I applied for the Bachelor of Dental Science course in the then University of Limpopo: Medunsa Campus, now Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. I completed some years after and now work as a Dentist.
Dentistry has Specialist fields. My personal favourite is community dentistry. This has mainly to do with going on outreach trips to treat and educate people in the community. Other fields include maxillofacial surgery, Prosthodontics, Orthodontics, Paediatric Dentistry to name but a few.
Dentistry and dental services are unpopular in black South African circles. With time, I believe, Dentistry will gain more ground because more and more people are becoming aware of its existence and what it has to offer. Its services are a bit expensive and thus only accessible to not as many people.
Our country is currently making an effort to ensure that it will be affordable in the future. This effort is seen in the future implementation of what is known as the National Health Insurance.
So, does dentistry have a bright future in South Africa? The answer is a resounding YES!!!! Do you want to become a dentist? If so, march on my friend. Good pastures lie ahead!!!