Community Engagement

The programmes places strong emphasis on community-based and primary health care orientation, and to this end the two programmes (Dental Therapy and Oral Hygiene) have, in the first-year of study, two modules aimed at  enhancing students’ knowledge and skills in community engagement and primary health care. This strand of training continues throughout the students training. In the first semester of year one, students study the module Psychosocial Orientation for Healthcare (DENT 111) and Community Studies (HLSC 100) in the second semester. This module equips students with a basic understanding of the primary health care orientation of the South African healthcare system and introduces the student to the community. Effective communication (both verbal and no verbal), acknowledgement of diversity, multiculturalism and sensitivity to language and socio-economic and environmental issues are also addressed in these various modules. In Year 2-Semester 1 students  register for two Community Oral Health Modules (DENT 213 & DENT 214), which have a strong focus on primary health care and include community outreach programmes and visits to, for example, schools.

The Preventative Dentistry component of the programme is reinforced by practical training at the Oral and Dental Training Centre (ODTC), King Dinuzulu Hospital as well as taking part in the Colgate Oral Health Month dental screening programmes.

As part of the community initiatives, students have been exposed to the different activities:

  • Visit to Schools
  • Primary health care centres
  • Hospital wards
  • Crèches
  • St Thomas Home
  • Highway Hospice
  • Old age homes
  • Phelophepha Train
  • Rotary Club Medical Day
  • Sai Organisation Medical Camp
  • St Wendolins Clinic
  • Colgate Community Screening Programmes
  • Integrated Health Awareness in Ndwedwe (as part of the Health Sciences Programme)
  • Special needs Schools: SPES Nova; RP Moodley

The Phelophepa Health Train also offers an excellent platform for community based training. It takes the student from an ideal clinical setting at the training sites of the university and allows them to adapt to a rural setting. It exposes them to the oral health status of the various communities they engage with as well as get to see for themselves what their oral health needs and demands are.  The clinical exposure they get on the train can never be matched at any designated training site. They get so see several patients a day compared to seeing maybe two or three in one clinical session at the training site. They get to relieve pain and suffering from a toothache by extracting them. There is also a great demand for scaling and polishing of teeth which is not otherwise available to them.  The students have done some excellent work on board especially in areas where there is a high fluoride content in water resulting in a number of patients presenting with stained teeth (fluorosis). Students have placed a special type of restoration (veneers) over these teeth, not only restoring their patients’ smiles but their self-confidence too.

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Discipline: Dentistry

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