We thought we would shed some light on a very successful dentist, in Ballito, Dr Marthinus van Niekerk, who runs a very busy practice. We asked him some pertinent questions, so we could get to know the man behind the practice.
What made you choose your current profession?
The short answer to that question would be rugby. In 1999 I was one of the approximate 2500 rugby players in South Africa to sustain a dental injury whilst on the field. And while this might sound valiant if you imagine it happening during a humdinger of a game, it was neither valiant nor during a game.
It was a Thursday afternoon practice session. My dental journey may have started there, but four years later, following extensive dental and orthodontic treatment, I found myself enrolled at the University of Pretoria to study dentistry.
To any young student keen to embark on a career in the health profession, I have this to say. Every day that you will study the miracle of the human body will be a blessing and a privilege. It may not dawn on you the first day you walk into the ward, but it will grow on you. Your workload will be immense and you will spend every day of your life serving others, but by doing so you will be changing people’s lives’, and that to me is the greatest reward of all.
2. Tell us about the most common misconception people have about what you do?
This is where I get super-excited about modern dentistry! Breaking the common misconception that dentistry is a stressful and painful experience is what we are all about. Modern dental practices invest greatly in technology that make the treatment process not only pain-free, but also deliver results much faster and more accurately than before. Dentistry is moving forward at an incredible rate with new technologies being introduced nearly every month. As a professional it means that staying abreast with all the latest trends becomes a constant challenge – one which we have gladly accepted.
3. Can you tell us about the most humorous thing that has ever happened to you – on the job?
One of the postgraduate studies I completed was Implantology and subsequently our practice frequently receives requests and bookings for this sought after treatment. Normally when patients come in for their first appointment it takes on the form of a discussion in my office, whereby we may discuss their medical and dental history, treatment options, personal concerns etc. before commencing with further diagnostic steps.
On this particular occasion my patient sat down and we had a lovely discussion as she told me where she was from, how they had travelled during their most recent vacation and what course each of her three children were studying. The appointment was going really well until she said: “Would you need to examine me first before taking x-rays?” But instead of pointing to her mouth, she pointed to her torso, and it was at that point that I realised it would probably be best to inform her now that we only deal with dental implants and that they differ vastly from the type which she had in mind.
4. What’s the most challenging part of your job? And the most rewarding?
Knowing that, despite the best efforts of government managed clinics, there are still millions of people in need of basic dental care in South Africa. That is probably the most pressing issue for me. The statistics are ever-increasing and it is going to take a major effort to impact the current situation. One such effort is a project known as LIV village. A day spent working with the children at LIV village is no doubt the highlight of my week and definitely the most rewarding part of being a dentist. This village is a safe haven for hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children – all in desperate need of medical and dental treatment.
5. What one piece of advice would you give your best friend (relating to your profession)?
Give your dentist a hug – at least twice a year. Show him that you trust in him and support his campaign to serve the community. PS – the first time is always a little awkward.
Read more about the treatments you are having done. We live in an age where we have information at our fingertips, yet we seldom make use of it. Do not just google – rather read from trusted sources such as pubmed and medscape – they are also free.
Invest only in the best. If there is one instance where this rule should be applied – dentistry is it. And lastly, prevention always trumps the cure.
Dr Van Niekerk practice details:
Tel: 032 586 3284
Address: Suite 29 San Hall Office Park, 1 Kirsty Close, Ballito, 4399