The future of digital dentistry looks bright. This follows the opening of Sirona Pan Dental for Sub- Saharan Africa Training Institute.
The training institute located on Naguru Drive, just next to The Surgery, will train dentists, students of dentistry and dental surgery assistants in the latest technology and digital dentistry.
The opening of the institution was made possible with the provision of equipment worth Shs 600m from Sirona Dental Systems towards Pan Dental Surgery. Sirona is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of dental equipment and industry leader in dentistry, while Pan Dental Surgery is a private clinic started by Dr Tom Mutyabule.
“What started as a discussion is now a reality. Digital dentistry is a reality. With digital dentistry, there is a lot you can achieve; we save time for the doctor and patient and we also save money,” said George Mangondo, Sirona’s sales manager for sub-Saharan Africa, while officially opening the institute last week.
According to Mangondo, the training centre is in Uganda but meant to cater for the entire sub-Saharan Africa.
“This is a privilege for the people of Uganda, which you need to take advantage of. You have Dr Tom who has been certified to train dentists in this technology. Make use of him because if you don’t make use of him, people from afar are going to make use of him and this is happening already. I am convinced that with his expertise and excellent team and with support from Sirona, this training centre will be a cutting edge incubation centre that will reshape dentists as they gain knowledge and experience the innovation,” Mangondo said.
Mutyabule, who has been a dentist for the last 24 years and was once president of Uganda Dental Association, applauded Sirona for their donation, which he said would equip dentists with valuable skills in modern technology.
“We now have no excuses that the facilities are not available. We have no reason to travel all the way to South Africa to acquire these skills,” he said. “Also, we have been having no training school for dental surgery assistants. Now we have the courses to make the surgery assistants more professional.”
The courses are for between one day and six months, depending on the students’ needs. Dr Louis Muwazi, the head of dentistry, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, said the training would be instrumental in shaping the college’s final products.
“For us at the [college] of health sciences, we get the raw materials, we turn them into dentists, but now if you get such partners as Sirona and Pan Dental, they add value to that raw material that we have molded into a dentist. So, we feel we have comrades,” he noted.
“There is nothing that gives me pleasure like having a man like Dr Tom because he was one of our students and when I see him succeed to this level, I can’t hide my feelings. That reminds me of how far dentistry has come in this country,” Muwazi said.
According to Muwazi, the first dentist came to Uganda in 1908 and was based at Entebbe just for expatriates. It was ten years later when the colonialists brought the second dentist, again for expatriates, because their numbers had begun increasing. In 1954 a fourth dentist (in addition to one who was at Mulago for expatriates) was stationed at Mulago to treat Africans for the first time.
“At that time they [colonialists] thought we didn’t have dental problems,” Muwazi said. “But in a span of a few years, we were getting our own who are [now] trying to raise dentistry in this country to a higher horizon.”
According to statistics from the ministry of health, dental problems take the fourth position in out-patients departments in government hospitals. But the country has only 266 dentists to cater for 35 million people.
With the old mechanical technology, a dentist spends more time on a single client and it requires a client to return several times for the problem to be fixed. But with digital technology, a dentist can fix multiple problems in a single visit.