The landscape of paediatric dental care in South Africa is poised for a significant transformation, marked by the launch of the nation’s first specialised Paediatric and Special Needs Dental Care Unit.
This pioneering initiative, a result of the dedicated efforts of the Department of Paediatric Dentistry of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), The Provincial Government of the Western Cape (PGWC) and Rotary Club, is set to revolutionise Paediatric Dentistry in South Africa.
It promises enhanced efficiency, a reduction in anxiety for young patients and a sharpened focus on providing dedicated oral health services to children, and especially children with special health care needs.
Working towards the acknowledgement of paediatric dentistry as a speciality in South Africa, the need for a dedicated, specialised, child-friendly facility was identified – particularly in the Western Cape. This project stands as a steadfast response to establishing such a paediatric dental unit, promising to positively impact service delivery to the children of the Western Cape.
Dalene Swart, President of the Rotary Club of Bellville, is passionate about this transformative initiative. She underscores the present scenario wherein young patients often undergo dental procedures under general anaesthesia.
“The establishment of a dedicated paediatric dentistry surgery unit, equipped with the latest materials and state-of-the-art equipment, not only enhances service quality but also serves as an invaluable training ground for postgraduate students,” she says.
However, the impact transcends mere smiles; it represents a pivotal advancement in South African healthcare, focused on the oral health of children. This project is expected to increase treatment capacity in the field of Paediatric Dentistry, thereby alleviating the workload of local healthcare professionals. It will also foster disease prevention and treatment programmes, bolster healthcare systems, and in time, significantly reduce the burden of disease and need for care under general anaesthesia.
Dr. Nicoline Potgieter, president of the South African Association of Paediatric Dentistry and course coordinator for the Masters programme in Paediatric Dentistry at UWC, emphasises the enduring plight of the children in South Africa, who are in dire need of expert oral health care. “It is important to note, oral health directly impacts general health which directly impacts quality of life. It is our responsibility to provide the basic health care needs of our children. The technological advances incorporated into the unit, support minimally invasive techniques and preventative dentistry and the environment is focused on making the dental visit more pleasant for the child patient. Hopefully, this is the first of many dedicated paediatric and special needs units across South Africa!”
This project, scheduled for full implementation by the end of October 2023, is the outcome of a collaboration between dedicated Rotary Club participants and the Tygerberg Oral Health Centre, which is a joint platform between UWC and PGWC. It seamlessly aligns with the UWC mission to train paediatric dentists as specialists in South Africa, reaffirming the institution’s commitment to community health and well-being. Similarly, it aligns with PGWC which is dedicated to high quality service rendering to all patients. Under this initiative, the first paediatric dentists will receive specialised training each year, while hundreds of children will benefit from disease prevention and interventions.
The project, funded with a capital expenditure of R1.2 million, draws support from various sources, including cash contributions from the Rotary Club of Bellville, the Rotary Foundation and six other Rotary Clubs from the UK, USA and Canada. A significant portion of the funds raised was allocated to state-of-the-art essential dental equipment, consumables, and building materials.
Swart concludes by underlining that this project transcends immediate community needs for specialised paediatric dental care; it is about advancing medical care in South Africa and laying the groundwork for the long-term sustainability and transformation of dental care needs. This is why it enjoys unwavering support from local Rotarians.