How to become a dentist

A recent survey by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) project ‘Strengthening Academic Medicine and Specialist Training’ surmised that there is a definite shortage of doctors, dentists and several other medical professionals in South Africa.  

The South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) reports that compared to other middle-income countries on the ratios of medical and dental professionals, South Africa has the least number of physicians per district, with many areas having limited access to specialists and sub-specialists. 

“The unacceptable ratio of doctors, dentists and other health professionals per capita need to be remedied, given South Africa’s impressive reputation for its output of health professionals, including the areas of medical training, clinical practice, and clinical research. The existing output from South Africa’s 8 medical schools of MB ChB and specialist graduates is not being absorbed into the public health system and neither are other health professionals,” SAMJ says.

When it comes to particularly dentists, – there are extremely low numbers of dentists and a low ratio per 1 000 population. There were 4 153 dentists (0.085 per 1 000 population) and few or no posts available to them in the public sector.

Matriculants are encouraged to opt for careers in the sciences, as there is a definite need for more science and medicine professionals. 

So, what would one need to study dentistry?

To become a dentist, a high school student would need the following subjects, all on the higher grade: Maths, chemistry, biology, and AP Physics. Other subjects that will be accepted are Physical science and Math Literature. A minimum pass rate of 50 is required to enroll into a dental bachelor’s degree program. 

There are six recognised Bachelor’s Degree institutions in South Africa, including the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand.

The degree takes between three to four years before the student decides on the specialty he/she would like to study, within the field of dentistry. 

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