Perceptions of the professionalization of dental technology
Skea, Denise Angela
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This study investigates the perceptions of dentists, dental technicians and dental patients with regard to the professionalization of dental technology as it is currently constituted in South Africa. The origin of dental technology worldwide lies in a trade and has historically been performed by craftsmen under the instruction of dentists. In South Africa during the early 1900s dental technology was practised in much the same way but the need for formalization of this field had been recognised. By 1945 dental technology was regulated by the Dental Mechanicians Board, which enabled only registered technicians to practise dental technology within South Africa. This field continues to be practised similarly at present. In order to establish the professional development of dental technology it is necessary to consider this field within a framework of desired professional attributes. This framework is provided by Greenwood (1957), who defines a profession by the following five attributes: systematic theory, professional authority, community sanction, ethical codes and a professional culture. Owing to the varied implementation and regulation of dental technology worldwide, little research into the professionalization of this field has been conducted to date. For the purpose of this study, dentists, dental technicians and dental patients in KwaZulu-Natal were interviewed in semi-structured interviews. The main themes emerging from this study were identified and considered with reference to the framework within which this study has been positioned. This study concludes that dental technology, as it is currently constituted in South Africa is perceived to be a profession by dentists, dental technicians and dental patients. .The term profession, however, is poorly understood by all three sample groups. Despite being considered a profession, dental technology is not considered to encompass all the attributes of a profession. Dental technology is therefore identified as a developing profession that positions this field somewhere along the professionalization continuum between a profession and a business.