Ms Jaynitha Gangiah, an academic in the Discipline of Dentistry, graduated with a Master’s degree in Dentistry for her study that was motivated by the fact that in South Africa prescribing antimicrobials for dental use by dental practitioners (including dental therapists) is not standardised.
Gangiah’s study was titled: Perceptions and Attitudes of Antimicrobial Prescription for Dental Use Between the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Recent Graduates in Dental Therapy Practicing in KwaZulu-Natal and the Undergraduate Dental Therapy Students.
Gangiah who describes herself as a proud dental therapist said, ‘Dental professionals commonly prescribe antimicrobials to control and treat dental infections. A firm grounding in the principles of prescribing and therapeutics, an understanding of how antimicrobials work and a basic knowledge of commonly used antimicrobials are essential for the management of dental conditions requiring antimicrobials. However, in South Africa, prescribing antimicrobials for dental use by dental practitioners is not standardised, which may leave it open to interpretation by the various professionals.’
As an academic, Gangiah was also interested in assessing whether what students are taught is implemented once they qualify. The study included a questionnaire for academics that teach Clinical Pharmacology. The results indicated that, despite there being no standardised guidelines, the academics used structured module content on prescribing antimicrobials that complies with the Health Professional Council of South Africa’s (HPCSA) scope of practice for dental therapists.
This is important as it lays the foundation for students to follow good practice in the workplace. The study also found that undergraduate students followed what was prescribed to them in their module as well as their clinical supervisor’s advice, whilst recent graduates’ prescribing trends were influenced by their work exposure during their supervised training, which resulted in some prescribing antimicrobials which were not on the HPCSA approved list.
Gangiah proposes that antimicrobial guidelines should be standardised and that students as well as recent graduates should advocate for this. She also recommends clinical protocol and patient management that focus on prevention. She said that graduates should be trained to raise awareness and educate the patient about antimicrobial resistance, thus maintaining a balance between minimal and effective treatment.
A school presentation in her matric year influenced Gangiah to pursue a career in Dental Therapy: ‘Growing up in a little town (Campbells Town) and having been subjected to limited dental facilities, made me realise that I should do something to improve this. A presentation at my school by staff at the Oral and Dental Training Hospital (linked to the then University of Durban-Westville) impressed me … so here I am!’
Gangiah who recently became a grandma, loves travelling to India and spending time with her family. She hopes to pursue a doctoral degree and make a contribution to the recognition of the dental therapy profession.
Words: MaryAnn Francis