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22 July 2022
Big smiles for hi-tech equipment donation
The community outreach efforts of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) have received a massive boost with a donation of state-of-the-art tele-dentistry equipment, intraoral cameras and dental chairs.

The donations are courtesy of Colgate-Palmolive - the makers of world class oral hygiene products.
The cameras are slightly bigger than a whiteboard marker, or as some of us like to call it, a khoki. In fact, the shape is similar. They fit comfortably into the patient’s mouth and allow for enlarged photos or videos to be taken of the teeth and mouth. The intraoral digital cameras, which cost around R40 000 each, even have livestreaming capabilities.

What this means is that if students out in the field have concerns, they can email or WhatsApp photos or videos back to one of the dentistry experts at the faculty to get an opinion, for example, whether hospitalisation may be necessary.
Dental care is generally expensive for low and middle-income communities. This makes the faculty’s mobile dental unit a game-changer.

“Our mobile dental services are so vitally important to positively impact communities and make health services accessible to the most vulnerable and marginalised,” said UWC Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Prof Tyrone Pretorius at the handover this week. “It’s new energy, new developments and new opportunities for our mobile outreach. Community engagement and social responsiveness is a fundamental pillar of health sciences education at UWC, and the University has shown and demonstrated that it is committed to going the extra mile in serving the communities in Cape Town and its surrounding areas.” 

Prof Pretorius added: “Through the generous donations of Colgate-Palmolive, The Dental Wellness Trust and The Rotary Waterfront, a new mobile dental clinic is also currently being fitted with state-of-the-art equipment. The Faculty had wanted to replace the old mobile clinic for some years, and now, thanks to the generous donors, this has become a reality.”
Prof Pretorius said plans were in motion to extend the reach of the community projects to as far as Dwarsrivier Valley, which covers areas like Pniel. 

“While the students, through these outreach programmes gain experience as dentists, they also significantly contribute to the communities they serve,” he said. “I’m told that when the mobile unit arrives in small rural areas such as Fisantekraal, just outside Durbanville, the students and staff are not surprised to find more than a hundred patients waiting for dental services. Once the new mobile clinic is in operation, it will enable us to live out our vision of being an engaged university even more. We set a high premium on our engagements and relationships with the communities around us.”
Debbie Last from Colgate-Palmolive explained how the idea for the hi-tech equipment sponsorship came about: “We had a new graduate in our department and we were discussing new project ideas. And she came up with the idea because she saw on Google that tele-dentistry is the way of the future. So, she put together an amazing plan and we pitched it to our global arm of our business. We said, ‘Please – we’d like to take dentistry to the community, for those people who can’t get to a dentist.’ And they willingly gave us all the funds we asked for.”
Dr Stephanus Crous, Colgate’s Public Health Manager, added: “For us, it is a wonderful opportunity to sponsor this equipment to the University of the Western Cape. I can say this without prejudice: I think this university has the most diverse community outreach plan when it comes to dentistry. So for us, it is wonderful partnering with UWC because if there is one institution that can show that dentistry can serve our under-served communities better, then it’s this institution. We look forward to a continuing partnership with you.”
Reflecting on the UWC and Colgate-Palmolive collaboration, Prof Pretorius said: “It is a symbol of us turning towards each other. We look forward to an even longer and more sustainable partnership with Colgate-Palmolive.”

For more images of the tele-dentistry equipment handover (all by Ruvan Boshoff/UWC Media), see the Gallery below: