Re-thinking South African dentists' role in a pandemic




pandemic, disaster, collaborative practice, inter-professional education, responders, public health, dental schools, models


Mass disasters such as terrorism, earthquakes and virus outbreaks challenge any healthcare system. Response teams to disasters typically consist of health professionals, local government, corporations, and community organizations, academics and the scientific community. Dentists or dental hygienists have traditionally only played a role in the identification of victims or in the treatment of facial trauma in disaster response. In South Africa, the response was mainly driven by medical professionals. Collaborative practice supported by inter-professional education may offer a solution to assist countries struggling with access to healthcare and overburdened health systems. In addition, revisiting the dentists' role in prioritising oral health and its relationship with general health and well-being is much needed. This short article provides a perspective on the role of South African dentists' contribution to health during a pandemic.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Lyon L. Dentists' Role in Interprofessional Education and Practice. 2020. p. 1-11.

Covid-IT, African S, Africa S, et al. Covid-19 Outbreak in South Africa: 2020.

Eliav E. We can do more: The role of dentists extends beyond traditional dentistry. Quintessence Int. 2017; 48(10): 775.

Colvard MD, Lampiris LM, Cordell GA, James J, Guay A, Lee M, et al. The dental emergency responder: Expanding the scope of dental practice. J Am Dent Assoc. 2006.

Bruhn AM, Newcomb TL, Sheth-Chandra M. Assessment of Mass Fatality Preparedness and Response Content in Dental Hygiene Education. Vol. 4608, Health Sciences Building. 2016.

Guay AH. Dentistry's response to bioterrorism: a report of a consensus workshop. J Am Dent Assoc. 2002; 1181-7.

Zohn HK, Dashkow S, Aschheim KW, et al. The odontology victim identification skill assessment system. J Forensic Sci. 2010.

Schuller-Götzburg P, Suchanek J. Forensic odontologists successfully identify tsunami victims in Phuket, Thailand. Forensic Sci Int. 2007; 171(2-3): 204-7.

Pitak-Arnnop P, Schubert S, Dhanuthai K, et al. Swine-origin H1N1 influenza A virus and dental practice: A critical review. Vol. 14, Clin Oral Investig. 2010; 11-7.

Glick M. Editorial: Do dentists have a role in fighting the latest H1N1 pandemic? J Am Dent Assoc. 2009; 140(9): 1072-4.

New Law Incorporates Dentists in Emergency Response Plans [Internet]. American Dental Association. [cited 2020 Aug 17]. Available from:

Psoter WJ, Park PJ, Boylan RJ, Morse DE, Glotzer DL. National emergency response programs for dental health care professionals. J Am Dent Assoc. 2008; 139(8): 1067-73.

Glotzer DL, Rekow ED, More FG, Godder B, Psoter W. All Hazards Training: Incorporating a Catastrophe Preparedness Mindset into the Dental School Curriculum and Professional Practice. Vol. 51, Dent. Clin N Am. 2007; 805-18.

Psoter WJ, Herman NG, More FG, Park P, Robbins M, Rekow ED, et al. Proposed Educational Objectives for Hospital-Based Dentists During Catastrophic Events and Disaster Response. J Dent Educ. 2006; 70: 835-43.

Dental School Residents Volunteer on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Pandemic | Rutgers University [Internet]. Available from:

FDI World Dental Federation. Optimal Oral Health Through Inter-Professional Education and Colloborative Practice. 2015.

World Health Organization. Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice Health Professions Networks. World Health Organization. 2010.

Interprofessional Educational Collaborative. Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: 2016 Update. Interprofessional Educ Collab. 2016; (May 2011): 10-1.

Jiang T, Tavares MA, Ticku SH, Riedy CA, Silk HJ, Sullivan KM, et al. Interprofessional education in dental schools: Results of a national survey. J Interprofessional Educ Pract. 2020; Mar 1; 18: 100256.

Sabato EH, Fenesy KE, Parrott JS, Rico V. Development, implementation, and early results of a 4-year interprofessional education curriculum. J Dent Educ. 2020; May 2.

Filies GC. Development of an Interprofessional Education Model that Aims to Instil the Core Competencies of Interprofessional Collaborative Practice in Allied Health Students Curriculum. 2017.

Moodley I, Singh S. Creating opportunities for interprofessional, community-based education for the undergraduate dental therapy degree in the School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Academics' perspectives. African J Heal Prof Educ. 2018; 10(1): 19.

Deutsche Welle. Coronavirus latest: WHO says health workers account for 10% of global infections. Deutsche Welle. 2020. Available from:

Covid-19 in SA:24. 104 health-care workers infected, 181 dead - Health Minister. 2020. Available from:

Wang L, Wei J, He L, et al. Dentists' Role in Treating Facial Injuries Sustained in the 2008 Earthquake in China. J Am Dent Assoc. May 2009; 140(5): 543-9.

Manger D, Walshaw M, Fitzgerald R, et al. Evidence summary: The relationship between oral health and pulmonary disease. Br Dent J. 222(7): 527-33.




How to Cite

Adam, R. Z. (2020). Re-thinking South African dentists’ role in a pandemic. South African Dental Journal, 75(10), 575–579.