Fees can be high because it costs up to R1 million to set up a practice.
The SA Dental Association (Sada) is encouraging South Africans to not only make emergency stops when issues arise, but to have regular dental check-ups to detect irreversible conditions.
Sada’s professional development head Dr Nthabiseng Metsing said dentists did not only treat teeth but were trained to diagnose, treat and manage conditions affecting the maxillofacial area (face, mouth and jaws). According to Metsing, dental issues “are not only limited to the teeth, they include the hard and soft tissue in maxillofacial area.
“There are aggressive benign tumours which present very late [for which] the treatment may be destructive and debilitating.” She said the only way of detecting issues was through regular visits to the dentist. The frequency would depend on the patient’s first visit. At the initial visit, the dentist would do a thorough examination of all the hard and soft tissues in the oral cavity and surrounding structures.
The dentist would discuss required treatments with the patient. Once the initial treatment plan has been completed, the patient will come for regular visits to ensure there is no further progression of disease or the development of new disease conditions or even tooth loss.” Some South Africans avoid visiting the dentist due to cost.
Metsing said fees charged were because of “the number of years a dentist spends training [mini-mum five years] and the start-up cost of a modern dental practice [being] anything between R500 000 and R1 million, excluding other overheads”. Despite the harsh economic climate making medical services like dental health seem luxurious for the average South African, Metsing said anyone could get access to dental care.
“Patients who cannot afford to see a private dentist may access any of the public clinics and hospitals which offer dental services and they are, in most cases, able to provide most of the treatments that a private practitioner may provide, without paying for it. She said maintaining good dental health was important. This included getting into the habit of brushing teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day.