Windhoek-One of the major roles of the newly established School of Dentistry at the University of Namibia is to produce reliable, evidence based dental research and data.
The head of the School of Dentistry Professor Risto Tuominen believes that with the necessary support, especially from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the school which opened this year can go beyond teaching dentists by providing other dental services, including research.
The new ambulatory building situated at the Faculty of Health Sciences would be handed over to Unam by the end of April.
At the moment, the building remains unoccupied as the dentistry students are studying basic science, anatomy, physiology and other subjects with medical students at the other medical faculty auditoriums.
“They (students) are not in the dental school yet so Unam could provide space for training interns already after a couple of months,” said the professor. This year, the dental school admitted 23 students out of 632 applicants.
“We only had 15 seats but we decided to increase the number of intake to 23 students,” said Tuominen.
The current students are all Namibians and although there were applications from SADC countries, Tuominen explained “our aim is to serve Namibia. If resources allow in future we will accept foreign students but our first concern is to serve Namibia,” said Tuominen.
Depending on how Unam and the Ministry of Health and Social Services agree on the use of the dental school, providing services such as internships and dental research can commence as early as this year because the facilities are already available in the ambulatory building.
Tuominen touched on the curriculum, saying it is solid and has been developed between many dental schools. Ten different teams worked in the specialty areas including oral hygiene, restorative dentistry, orthodontics and radiology.
The teams were from different universities and the curriculum fulfils both European and American requirements. As from their second year, students at the newly established dental school will start with practicals.
First they practise in simulation labs on plastic teeth on which they will drill and extract plastic teeth. This, Tuominen explained, is to equip students with knowledge of what to do before attending to their first patients.
“Next year they are going to practise a lot in the simulation lab. This year they will just do basic sciences with medical students,” he added.
In order to be qualified dentists, students attend a five-year course and one-year internship.
Tuominen added that the School of Dentistry will also offer internships (when everything is in place) for students who acquired qualifications from outside Namibia.
There is a need for dentists in Namibia and the country will not anytime soon be in oversupply of dentists, explained Tuominen. There are about 250 dentists in the country.
Most of these are concentrated in Windhoek and a few in some towns such as Swakopmund, added the professor.
“Where I come from (Finland), we have twice the number of people compared to here and we have 5,000 dentists. We don’t have unemployed dentists, they are all working. People shouldn’t think where will the dentists that we are training go? Up north and many other places in the country there are so many people who need dental services and treatment.”