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Dental Technicians

‘Waterloo’ is a name that is famous for different reasons. It is, of course, the name of the town about 15 kilometres south of Brussels, in Belgium, 2 kilometres away from a battlefield. There, on Sunday 18 June 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the combined might of England, Prussia and Holland. The ‘Battle of Waterloo’ has gone down in history as one of the most famous – and bloodiest – battles ever.

Abba’s song ‘Waterloo’, meanwhile, has gone down in history as the best entry in the fifty year life of the Eurovision Song Contest.1 It is the song which set the Swedish pop group on the road to international fame and fortune. Of course, that song is about a girl who met her Waterloo – she surrendered, in other words, as did Napoleon.

Waterloo Station, on the other hand, is in central London and happens to be Britain’s busiest railway station – nearly 100 million passenger entries and exits were recorded in 12 months.2 It also gets its name from the famous battle.

So what has this all got to do with dental technicians? A lot, actually, if you happened to be one living and working in and around England in the early 19th Century. This is because dental care was virtually unknown, and with high sugar consumption and poor diet otherwise, false teeth were the order of the day. And, as it turns out, human teeth made the best dentures. So, with 50 000 men lying dead or wounded on the Waterloo battlefield, as night set in shadowy figures flitted from corpse to corpse not only looting valuables but also plucking as many healthy and intact front teeth as they could.3

These ‘Waterloo teeth’ became sought after, because human teeth were really only available, otherwise, when someone died from natural causes. However, then, they were usually aged or diseased. The teeth of strong young men were, on the contrary, rather prized.4

Nowadays, a dental technician is someone who makes artificial teeth – caps, crowns and implants – from more space age materials. His skill-set is fundamental to everyday dentistry. Without dental technicians many of us would never smile – as those forefathers never did, for the same reason. The Dental Technicians Act 19795 regulates this profession. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Health.

There is a general provision6 which states that any person who contravenes any provision of the Act (or who fails to comply with any such provision with which it is his or her duty to comply) shall, even where such contravention or failure is not elsewhere declared an offence, be guilty of an offence. In what follows I set out the specified offences, and some of the more obvious prohibitions criminalised by the general provision.

A. Registration

  1. It is a criminal offence for anyone to:
    • practise the profession of a dental technician or dental technologist, unless he is registered under the Act;7
    • perform any act reserved for the profession of dental technician or dental technologist unless he is registered (as such) under the Act;8
    • falsely hold himself out to be registered as a dental technician or dental technologist;9
    • use any name, title, description or symbol implying that he is so registered.10
  2. It is also an offence to:
    • procure for yourself (or for any other person) registration under the Act by means of a false representation, whether verbally or in writing;11
    • procure any certificate, permit or receipt by means of a false representation;12
    • make any unauthorised entry or alteration in or removal from the register (or a certified copy thereof or extract therefrom) or on any certificate, permit or receipt issued under the Act;13
    • wilfully destroy, or damage, or render illegible any entry in the register or, without the permission of the holder thereof, any certificate, permit or receipt issued under the Act; and14
    • forge or, knowing it to be forged, tender any document purporting to be a certificate, permit or receipt issued under the Act.15
  3. It is a crime to pretend, falsely, to be any person registered in terms of the Act.16

  4. You may not practice the profession of dental technician for your own account (or be a member of a partnership, association or company) unless you are registered, and thereafter performed the work of a dental technician (presumably, in the employ of someone else), and also have acquired a National Higher Diploma in Dental Technology.17

  5. It is an offence to employ any other person to perform the work of a dental technician or a dental technologist unless he is registered.18

B. Conditions of practice

  1. The South African Dental Technicians Council19 may determine the conditions of employment of dental technicians or dental technologists, and the tariff of fees payable for their services. It is a criminal offence for any person (whether an employer, employee or contractor) not to comply with these determinations,20 unless he has been exempted by the Council.21

  2. This means it is also a criminal offence for a dental technician or dental technologist to:22
    • offer, allow or accept any discount on the tariff of fees determined by the Council;23
    • offer, allow or pay any commission or remuneration to a dentist.24
  3. It is, in turn, a criminal offence for a dentist to propose, offer, allow or accept any discount, commission or remuneration from a dental technician or dental technologist.25

C. Restricted work

  1. No person other than a dentist or a clinical dental technologist26 may, for gain, do the following – and commits an offence if he does:
    • supply any artificial denture or other dental appliance to any person for his use; or undertake to do the supply;27
    • make, repair, alter or work upon any artificial denture or other dental appliance unless it, or the impression, model or any other relevant direction has been delivered to him by a dentist, and is to be returned by him to the dentist.28
  2. It is an offence for a person, other than a dentist to pretend to be entitled (or be willing) to supply, make, repair, alter or work upon any artificial denture or other dental appliance unless the denture or appliance (or impression, model, or other relevant direction) has been delivered to him by a dentist, and it is to be returned to the dentist.29

  3. It is also a crime to solicit, or accept any order in relation to any artificial denture or other dental appliance if it is to be done in contravention of the above provisions.30

D. Partnerships, associations and companies

  1. Where the profession of dental technician or dental technologist is carried on in partnership, all members of such partnership must be either dentists or clinical dental technologists on the one hand, or dental technicians or dental technologists (or both) on the other hand.31

  2. If the profession of dental technician or dental technologist is carried on in association, it is an offence if the following is not complied with:32
    • written proof of the formation of the association, including the names of all associates, must be submitted to the Council, together with the application for registration of the dental laboratory;
    • the associates shall, before 31 March each year, submit an affidavit to the Council confirming the continued existence of the association and restating the names of all associates.
  3. Moreover, it is an offence if all the associates do not practice their profession, and operate the laboratory on the same premises.33

  4. In the case of an association of dentists or clinical dental technologists conducting a dental laboratory, only work for the patients of that association may be done in that laboratory.34

  5. Where the profession is being carried on by an incorporated company (or close corporation), all the members of that entity must be either dentists or clinical dental technologists, on the one hand, or dental technicians or dental technologists (or both).35

  6. If those members conduct a dental laboratory, they may only perform work in the laboratory for patients of that entity. Furthermore, all the members of the entity must practise their profession, and conduct the laboratory, on the same premises. It is an offence to contravene these provisions.36

E. Dental laboratories

  1. It is an offence for anyone other than a dental technician contractor, a dentist, or a clinical dental technologist to be the owner of a dental laboratory.37

  2. Where a dentist or clinical dental technologist owns a dental laboratory, it may only do work for their patients.38

  3. It is a criminal offence for a dentist or clinical dental technologist to supervise, or conduct a dental laboratory in which work is performed for someone who is not their patient.39

  4. You may not supervise a dental laboratory unless you are a dentist, clinical dental technologist, a dental technician contractor, or a dental technologist.40 In addition, you must41 have a B.Tech.Dent.Tech. degree.42 It is a crime to contravene these requirements.

  5. It is an offence to conduct a dental laboratory if it is not under the continuous personal supervision of:

    • a dentist or clinical dental technologist, a dental technician contractor, or a dental technologist; or
    • a person holding a B.Tech.Dent.Tech degree.43

F. Inspectors

  1. The Council may appoint inspectors to make such examinations and enquiry of any dental laboratory as deemed necessary. It is a criminal offence to:
    • obstruct an inspector in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his duties;44
    • without valid excuse, refuse to answer any question an inspector has put;45
    • refuse to comply with any requirement made by an inspector;46
    • furnish any information which is false or misleading.47
  2. It is a criminal offence falsely to pretend to be an inspector.48

G. Unmounted artificial teeth

  1. No person other than a dentist, a clinical dental technologist or a dental technician contractor shall manufacture, import, buy or be in possession of any unmounted artificial teeth except under a permit issued by the Council.49

  2. It is a crime to contravene the conditions of any such permit.50

  3. It is an offence to supply unmounted artificial teeth to any person who is not a dentist, a clinical dental technologist, a dental technician contractor, or the holder of a permit.51

  4. Any person to whom a permit has been issued shall keep a register of the prescribed particulars relating to all unmounted artificial teeth which he has manufactured, imported, bought, sold or supplied, or which is in his possession.52 It is a crime not to comply with these requirements.

H. Disciplinary enquiries

The Council can hold enquiries into charges of misconduct.

  1. Any person who has been duly summoned to appear before the Council commits an offence if he:
    • refuses, or without sufficient cause fails to attend the enquiry at the time and place specified in the summons;53
    • refuses to take the oath, or to make an affirmation when required to do so;54
    • refuses to produce any book, record, document or thing which he has been required to produce;55
    • refuses to answer, or to answer fully and satisfactorily to the best of his knowledge and belief, any question lawfully put to him.56
  2. It is (obviously) a crime to give false evidence at an inquiry if you know the evidence to be false.57

  3. If the Council finds that any person registered in terms of the Act has become:
    • disabled to the extent that it would be contrary to the public interest to allow him to continue practice; or
    • addicted to the use of any scheduled substance,58

the Council can order that he be suspended from practice, or impose conditions for his continued practice. It is a crime to fail to comply with such order.59

  1. Wikipedia – ‘Waterloo’ (Abba song) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_(ABBA_song)](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_(ABBA_song). 

  2. Wikipedia – London Waterloo Station https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Waterloo_station

  3. www.historyhome.co.uk – ‘Waterloo Teeth’. 

  4. Ibid. 

  5. As amended. The latest amendment was effected by Act 43 of 1997. 

  6. Section 47(1) of the Act. 

  7. Section 27(3) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  8. Section 27(3) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  9. Section 27(5) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  10. Section 27(5) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  11. Section 44(a). 

  12. Section 44(a). 

  13. Section 44(b). 

  14. Section 44(c). 

  15. Section 44(d). 

  16. Section 44(e). 

  17. Section 27(6)(a) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  18. Section 27(8) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  19. The South African Dental Technicians Council is situated at 954 Cnr Hill & Arcadia Street, Arcadia (tel: 012 342 4134). 

  20. Section 12(6) read with section 47(1). 

  21. Section 12(7)(a). 

  22. Section 32(1) read with section 12(1). 

  23. Section 32(1) read with section 47(4). 

  24. Section 32(1) read with section 47(4). 

  25. Section 32(1) read with section 47(4). 

  26. Both are referred to in this section as ‘a dentist’. 

  27. Section 27(1)(a) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  28. Section 27(1)(b) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  29. Section 27(2)(a) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  30. Section 27(2)(b) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  31. Section 32A(1) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  32. Section 32A(2) read with section 47(4). 

  33. Section 32A(2)(d) read with section 47(4). 

  34. Section 32A(2)(c) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  35. Section 32(A)(3)(a) read with section 47(4). 

  36. Section 32A(3)(b) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  37. Section 29(1) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  38. Section 29(3)(a) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  39. Section 29(3)(b) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  40. Section 29(4) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  41. Unless you supervised a laboratory (or had the right to do so) on a date to be determined by the Minister and published in the Gazette. It seems that no such date has yet been published. 

  42. Section 29(5) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  43. Section 29(6) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  44. Section 47(3)(c)(i). 

  45. Section 47(3(c)(ii). 

  46. Section 47(3)(c)(iii). 

  47. Section 47(3)(c)(iv). 

  48. Section 47(3)(c)(v). 

  49. Section 33(1) read with section 47(3)(a). 

  50. Section 47(3)(b). 

  51. Section 33(2) read with section 37(3)(a). 

  52. Section 34 read with section 47(4). 

  53. Section 36(4)(c)(i). 

  54. Section 36(4)(c)(ii). 

  55. Section 36(4)(c)(iii). 

  56. Section 36(4)(c)(iv). 

  57. Section 40. 

  58. Substances for which prescriptions are needed. 

  59. Section 43(5) read with section 43(2).