How to become a Dentist or Dental Assistant

When you were younger, did you ever dream of becoming a dentist or a dental assistant? Are you young enough to follow up on that dream? If so, here is some helpful information for you on how to become a dentist or dental assistant.

Today we are following up on our very popular article entitled “Have you reached your goals set when you were young?” (which forms part of our #YouWantMyJob and #WhenIGrowUp series) and looking at what it takes to become a dentist or a dental assistant.

Let’s look at becoming a dentist:

What does a dentist do? A dentist is responsible for providing checkups of a person’s teeth and gums. They can look for early signs of gum disease and other dental problems, and provide treatment for decay and other dental issues. They may also remove teeth and provide false teeth to replace those that are missing.

What challenges does a dentist encounter? It is very expensive to set up your own practice and you spend long hours dealing with patients who are potentially in pain , demanding or just rude. To top that off most children are afraid of you and many adults as well.

What makes it all worth it? If you do manage to set up your own practice it could generate a good income and you could be setting the hours you prefer and choosing a work setting that is comfortable for you. You get to work with and help people.

What personality traits are needed? Good with people, Interested in dentistry , science-orientated , confident and trustworthy, good with your hands , able to do fine and detailed work, a person with good special (3-D) awareness , able to concentrate and be self-motivated.

What does a dentist do?women at the dentist

  • Diagnosis: Examining the teeth and gums to find disease or abnormalities.
  • Preventative Work: Supplying patients with up-to-date dental care information and methods to maintain good dental health.
  • Corrective Treatment: Clean, fill, treat teeth and gums – the making of false teeth, crowns and bridges.
  • Surgery: Removal of teeth and treatment of jaw fractures.
  • Admin: Bookkeeping, stock taking, managing and training staff, advertising etc.

What do you need to become a dentist?

Compulsory subjects in high school: Mathematics, Physical Science, Life Science

Where to study: University of Limpopo ,  University of Pretoria , University of the Witwatersrand ,  University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of the Western Cape. Every degree has a compulsory element of internship to it, so this will give you practical experience you would not otherwise get.

The degree takes five years, during which time you will learn everything a dentist has to know in order to practice. The course is split into different elements including theory learning, and practical teaching that takes place in your chosen dental school. The five year course will include a year spent in medical service, which is compulsory. The dental schools have a dental hospital associated with them where much of the practical experience is gained.

Once you have your degree you will need to register as a dentist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

dentist office

Licensure Requirements: Only a licensed dentist has the right to treat patients and to obtain a license the individual needs to take the licensure examinations.

Typical employers: Private practice / Hospitals  / Municipal clinics / Industries / Universities / Research Institutions.
We recently had the opportunity of chatting to Dr. Rolanda Prinsloo and her dental assistant Jane from  The Dental Medical Aesthetics Clinic. Listen to what they have to say:

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Let’s look at becoming a dental assistant:

What does a dental assistant do? Dental assistants prepare patients for their oral examination and assist dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists, in providing treatment to the teeth, mouth and gums. Dental assistants also carry out reception and administration duties. Under the dentist’s direction, some dental assistants prepare materials for making impressions and restorations, expose radiographs, and process dental X-ray film. Dental assistants help the dentist perform dental procedures. They work beside dentists while they examine and treat patients.

What challenges does a dentist assistant have?  Dealing with unpleasant or rude patients , working under pressure  and standing for long periods.

What makes it all worth it? Working with people in the health field without needing advanced education , good employment opportunities , job security and variety of work.


What do you need to become a dental assistant?

dentist and assistant

School Subjects : none – just a matric, but life sciences is recommended.

Training: one can do a Dental Assistant course at  CPUT, CUT and TUT, and Dental Services at DUT.

While a dental assistant may be employed without any specific training, someone with a diploma or certificate would have an advantage.

Typical Employer: Private dental practices, Hospitals , Clinics and  Government departments.

We hope you found this insightful and will be willing to share your story with us using the #WhenIGrowUp hashtag on your social media profiles. What did you dream of becoming? Did you / will you follow through? Leave a comment and let us know. Feedback is appreciated and welcome. Also feel free to check out the latest jobs in the dental field on Job Mail.

Watch this space for updates in our #YouWantMyJob and #WhenIGrowUp series of articles.

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8 Responses

  1. maurice says:

    I have an interest i working as a dental assistant and also i want someone whom I can assist him in his or her practice. THANKS.

  2. Sibongile says:

    can I have more info to do the course @ DUT PMB

  3. oman mazhar says:

    I m Oman mazhar from. Pakistan I learned dentist assistant to abrod so kindly give me a visa

    • Henno Kruger says:

      Hi Oman – We don’t issue visas. We are a job portal that connects job seekers and employers. E-mail our consultant Rose via – she might be able to offer some advice.

  4. PITSO says:

    I am interested in doing Dental assistant, what worries me is that will the money I earn be able to help me provide for my family and sibblings whom i want to help

  5. Esther says:

    I wish to do dentist assistant course my worry i don’t have maths and science,does the course has age restriction?

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