Celebrating 40 years of dentistry at UWC

Life can be difficult if you don’t have any teeth, but 100 senior citizens will have reason to smile this month with a new set of dentures courtesy, of UWC’s dental school.

It’s 40 years this July since the university’s dentistry faculty turned out its first crop of graduates in 1978, and to celebrate that and Mandela Day on the 18th, it will produce 100 extra sets of dentures – on top of the 5 000 it makes annually – for the seniors.

Established to train people of colour in South Africa, it had to stave off many threats to close down over the years, but today, UWC’s dental school is the biggest in Africa.

Dr Emile Prince, the deputy dean of dentistry, said the faculty wanted to help those in need.

“Most of the recipients have no teeth at all, and it makes us proud to provide dentures to as many elderly people as possible,” said Dr Prince.

The Western Cape has the highest rate of toothlessness in the country, but dentures are expensive, especially if your only income is a welfare grant.

The faculty is the only institution in the province providing dentures to the poor, and it can take four to five patient visits to make a set, so there’s a waiting list of three to four years for those who need it.

“The recipients for the dentures are selected from that waiting list of patients, with the procedure costing approximately R3 000,” said
Dr Prince. “If this was a private practice, it would cost in the region of R5 000.”

Private dental laboratory Protech, UWC’s in-house lab, as well as other laboratories, will provide the services.

The faculty will also perform 100 minor surgical procedures from dusk till dawn, on Mandela Day, on patients who have been on the waiting list for wisdom-teeth removals, badly broken teeth, biopsies and referrals from clinics and private practices.