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UWC Dentistry’s Mandela Project Puts 100 Smiles On Patients’ Faces

Author: Myolisi Gophe

How do you celebrate the centenary of the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s selflessness and community action? Well, if you’re UWC’s Faculty of Dentistry, you do it by doing what you do best: providing 100 brand new dentures - and 100 new smiles.

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(Published - 23 November 2018)

It was a matter of 100 dentures and 100 new smiles to celebrate the 100 years of Madiba Magic. That was one of the most valuable contributions made by the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Faculty of Dentistry to this year’s country-wide Nelson Mandela Centenary celebrations.

On Wednesday 21 November 2018 the Faculty hosted an event to honour and commend all of those who participated in the Mandela Centenary Denture Project - from the 100 patients who benefited to the clinicians, dental assistants, laboratory staff, the manufacturer and the Western Cape government.

Every year the Faculty strives to commemorate Mandela Day in a special way. This year, however, Dr Emile Prince - Deputy Dean: Clinical at UWC Dentistry - wanted to go big.

“So he wanted to do a hundred of something and of course he chose the most expensive thing to do – 100 dentures,” said Professor Yusuf Osman, Dean of the Faculty, drawing a big laugh from the audience.

Dr Prince had made arrangements with his colleagues and managed to finish the 100 dentures for patients who were on the waiting list at the faculty’s Tygerberg and Mitchells Plain clinics.

“We normally produce over 5 000 dentures a year but Dr Prince made these 100 as a special extra to that, and we thank everyone who came to the party to make this possible.”

Dr Prince is pleased with - and grateful for - the success of the Mandela Day Denture Project. He explained that people wait for up to four years for dentures - but the initiative, a joint effort between the University and the Western Cape Department of Health, had shortened that period dramatically.

“I came up with the idea but I couldn’t do all 100 dentures [by myself],”  said Dr Prince. “I called my supervisors and their immediate response was :‘Yes we can do it’. For, that I’m extremely humbled.”

And the beneficiaries were over the moon with project. All are pensioners dependent on a state pension - and with the cost of a set of dentures up to R4,000 in private practice, many of them had no chance of getting the dentures they needed.

“I can’t do anything without dentures,” said one of the beneficiaries, Shameela Abdullah from Mitchell’s Plain.

When her previous dentures had broken in the middle, she could only eat a slice of toast every day. She asked the UWC Dentistry clinic to fix them - but when they broke again, she requested to go onto the waiting list. Three months later she was told she had qualified for the Mandela Project - and four weeks later she had her new dentures.

“For that I’m very happy,” Ms Abdullah said. “These are the first dentures I’ve had that don’t hurt, and I can eat without taking them out. I put it in and never took it out again, except when I want to clean it. I’m very happy with my new dentures - and thank you so much to the Mandela Project.”

Mavis Davids, who had been on the waiting list for more than five years after her dentures dropped and broke, echoed those sentiments.

“I couldn’t smile when I wanted to smile and I was close to tears when the doctor helped me with my new dentures. Thank you, doctor - and thank you to the Mandela Project,” said Ms Davids.

But while UWC Dentistry is willing and able to help provide dentures for those in need, it’s important to remember that prevention can be better than cure.

Ms Abdullah warned the youth and those who still have all their own teeth to take a very good care of them, and to avoid dentures.

“The youth must not remove their teeth unnecessarily. I’ve had dentures since I was 16 years old and I’m 62 now. It is very uncomfortable, but it is the best we can do now.  If UWC Dentistry ever has a project to open your gums and plant new teeth, I would be the first to come.”

Did you know? UWC Dentistry isn’t just celebrating 100 years of Nelson Mandela this year - 2018 also marks 40 years since the Faculty produced its first crop of graduates.​​​​​​​​​​

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