In 1948 orthodontics was registered as a specialist dental practice by the government of South Africa. In that registration, the field was defined as the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of facial and dental irregularities. For the most part though, orthodontics means braces on teeth.

Although Orthodontics and Oral Surgery were recognised as specialties by the common Medical Register for all disciplines, a Dental Specialists Register did not exist at that stage. The Dental Association of South Africa engaged in debate at branch level to find a remedy.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of these pioneers and the subsequent lobbying and dedication, orthodontics was proclaimed as a dental speciality on 10 September 1948.

The University of the Witwatersrand organised orthodontics study in South Africa earnest in 1953. The first program was post-graduate course at the Wits Dental School. The course was presented on a daily part-time basis from 3 August 1953 to 31 January 1956. After the first two students graduated, the course became a mainstay and is still presented at Wits.

In 1949, South Africa’s second dental faculty was established at Pretoria University. The Department of Orthodontics was established in 1960, exactly 10 years after the Wits programme, and they launched their first post-graduate course in orthodontics in 1963.

Three other South African dental faculties have since added Orthodontia as a speciality:

  • The University of the Witwatersrand
  • The University of the Western Cape
  • The medical campus of the University of Limpopo - Medunsa – in Garunkua, Thswane

At present, orthodontics is a four-year full-time post-graduate study for dentists who wish to enter this specialised field.