AFRICA SOCIETY OF PERIODONTOLOGY
Term: 1/05 to 10/07
AW van Zyl
P.O. Box 1266
Phone: 27 12 319 2336
Fax: 27 12 326 3375
JH de Beer
27 12 664 1251/2
27 12 664 1253
27 12 998 0242
27 12 998 0246
Phone: 27 12 319 2336
Fax: 27 12 326 3375
all began somewhere under the pavement stones of central Cape Town, the
spot where Jan van Riebeeck set foot on South African soil in 1652.
First Commander of the Cape but also member of the Dutch guild of barber
surgeons, he was charged with the task of setting up a scurvy station on
the slopes of Table Mountain. His objective was to nurse back to health
the scores of scorbutic sailors temporarily discharged from passing
sailing ships. The results of this endeavour were spectacularly
successful and from these modest beginnings grew the settlement which
ultimately became Cape Town, the legislative capital of modern South
needs just a small degree of imagination and a larger degree of poetic
licence to cite this as the beginning of periodontology in South Africa.
Was it not the florid gingivitis and marked mobility of teeth which led
to the diagnosis of scurvy, and was it not the resolution of these
symptoms which heralded the success of Van Riebeeck's treatment? Surely
then it could be said that Cape Town is the only capital of a modern
state built on periodontal support!
the abundance of South African produce snuffed out this early
periodontal endeavour (and scurvy!) for the next two centuries. It was
only during the early decades of this century that periodontics slowly
crept back into the repertoire of the dentist, albeit that the treatment
offered was confined to chromic acid and gingivectomy.
teaching of periodontics at South African dental schools started perhaps
in the early fifties when Prof. Jan Breyer gave short courses in the
subject to final year dental students at the University of the
Witwatersrand. However, it was only in the early
sixties that modern periodontology was taught to students at the
University of the Witwatersrand for the first time by Dr. Tony Melcher
(now Prof. A. Melcher of Toronto) who was then in practice in
Johannesburg and a part-time lecturer at the School. His course formed
only a small part of the academic activities of the day but it could be
considered as the spark which later started our Society. Prof. Melcher's
enthusiasm fired Prof. John Lemmer to undertake the under-graduate
teaching of this discipline when the former embarked on a brilliant
research career in London and Toronto. A few years later, in 1964/1965
Prof. Lemmer offered a post-graduate course in periodontology as a
subject for the Higher Diploma in Dentistry. At the completion of this
course the members of the class rallied together to form the
Johannesburg Periodontal Study Group, which was the embryonic South
African Society for Periodontology.
JOHANNESBURG PERIODONTAL STUDY GROUP
Johannesburg Periodontal Study Group came into existence probably in
August 1965. Unfortunately the early records of the group were lost so
that we have to rely largely on the memories of the older members of the
fraternity. The founder members of the study group were, as far as could
be ascertained from frail memories, John Lemmer, Derrick Dell, Paul
Lohse, Arthur Lewin, Basil Abrams, Mannie Ichilcik, Michael Kusner,
Terence Knight, Bernie Radomsky, Archie Buskin and the Wynand Dreyer.
The group slowly enlarged and later members included such persons as Alf
VoIchansky, Ed Rosenberg, Jan Dreyer, "Smoky" Smukler, Les
Fleisch and others. The group met monthly at the Dental School in
Johannesburg with Derrick Dell acting as chairman and the author as
secretary for more years than either would care to remember. At these
monthly meetings members presented papers and cases for the critical
ears and eyes of their colleagues. The study group was extremely active
and regular participation was considered essential for continued
membership. This principle worked so well that it was built into the
constitution of the succeeding Society. Although misgivings
arose around this point in later years, it was a powerful unifying
factor in the Study Group and early Society. However, this is a story to
be considered later in this discussion.
PERIODONTAL SOCIETY OF SOUTH AFRICA
1968 the membership of the Study Group stood at 17 and it was on 22
January of that year that the Group agreed to seek special group status
within the then Dental Association of South Africa (DASA). A
constitution was approved on 26 February 1968 and ratified by the
Federal Council of the DASA in May of the same year. Up to
that point the Study Group had held 38 or 39 meetings and the first
meeting held thereafter was numbered afresh number one. This meeting
thus can be considered the Society's date of birth. Unfortunately the
exact date could not be ascertained from the annals but it was probably
in June 1968.
SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIETY FOR PERIODONTOLOGY
years later, on 29 July 1970, a change of name was approved namely The
South African Society for Periodontology, with its Afrikaans counterpart
of "Suid-Afrikaanse Vereniging vir Periodontologie". It was in
fact the Afrikaans translation which partly precipitated this change of
name because it was felt that "Periodontale of Periodontologiese
Vereniging van Suid-Afrika" sounded clumsy and jarring to the ear.
growth of the Society was quite slow in those early years and the
membership was only 29 in 1969 and 36 in 1973. This slow growth was a
direct result of the stringent requirement of having to present a paper
at a meeting before membership of the Society was granted. Needless to
say this requirement caused some resentment and the minutes of the
meetings held in those years made frequent reference to the possible
abolition of this requirement. A category of associate membership was
consequently established for those interested in the subject but either
unwilling or unable to present a paper. The principle was finally only
abolished in January 1980 at the Annual General Meeting of the Society
held at Golden Gate in the Free State.
the requirement of presenting of a paper led to slow growth, it
certainly did manage to keep all members involved in the early years of
the Society. It may be argued that this very stringent requirement was
essential to ensure the survival of the Society during its formative
discussion of the history of the Society would be incomplete without
mentioning the names of the very able Chairmen who managed the affairs
of the Society over the first 100 meetings. They were:
is particularly gratifying to know that amongst the 123 members of the
Society in 1981, a substantial number were extremely active - not only
in the affairs of the Society but also in the broader field of the
profession as dental educators, researchers and politicians. Members of
our Society were active in the affairs of the DASA as Branch Presidents,
Federal Councillors and members of standing and ad hoc committees. In at
least one instance the Society was instrumental in establishing a
sub-subcommittee of the parent Association. Who can forget Alf
Volchansky's valiant efforts to establish a Post-graduate Academy which
ultimately led to the Post-graduate subcommittee, a committee later
aptly renamed the Continuing Education subcommittee?
number of members of the Society at that stage had established
themselves in the field of periodontology in other parts of the world,
in various centres from London to Boston and from Philadelphia to
is good to know that the South African periodontist earns the highest
praise where ever he/she is active.
it would be incomplete not to mention the distinguished persons who have
accepted honorary membership of our Society up to 1981:
C.J. Dreyer (SA)
H. Löe (Connecticut)
G. Kramer (Boston)
L. Abrams (Philadelphia)
S. Ramfjord (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
M. Ruben (Boston)
Claude Nabers (San Antonio, Texas)
H. Corn (Philadelphia)
M. Alderman (Philadelphia)
A. Melcher (Toronto)
J. Lindhe (Sweden)
S. Nyman (Sweden)
further milestone was reached on 24th July 1978 when the Cape Western
Branch of the Society was established with Dr. Pat Josephson as its
members living elsewhere then automatically constituted the Southern
Transvaal Branch. On 15 November 1980 a Natal branch was
established with Dr M Baranyay as its Chairman.
these events the Society assumed a truly national character but along
with this, numerous logistic problems were created in the day-to-day
running of the Society. The Executive Committee members were spread over
the length of the country making consultations between members difficult
and reliant on telephone and postal services.
SPECIALITY OF PERIODONTICS AND ORAL MEDICINE
the most significant development stemming from the activities of this
Society was the establishment of periodontics as a speciality. Quoting
from the chairman's report at the Annual General Meeting held on 26th
April 1971: "1970 will go down in the annals of the S.A. Society
for Periodontology as the year of the memorandum. Much of the time and
energy of this Society has been devoted to the drafting of a memorandum
in support of the establishment of periodontics as a speciality".
That this representation was successful and the specialist's register
was established in 1972.
establishment of the speciality, however, brought its own problems. It
led to a major crisis about the future of the Society. Some members felt
that the Society should disband in its then present form and that a new
society of specialists should be formed. The problem was eventually
circumvented by a wise move of establishing a subgroup of specialists
within the Society in 1974. All members on the specialist register
automatically belonged to this group to which all matters relevant to
specialist practice were referred. Needless perhaps to add, the greater
proportion of this sub-group's activity has centred on fees and the
establishment of a list of specialist periodontal procedures in the
statutory and national fee schedules. The sub-group was also primarily
involved in the problem of defining the scope of the speciality of
periodontics. In a letter dated 2 August 1973 from the then honorary
secretary, Dr. Meyerowitz, the Society's views were voiced: "It is
the sincere belief of members of the SA Society for Periodontology that
the various problems currently being raised in respect of the new
specialities of periodontics and prosthodontics, are directly related to
the very fact of their newness ...We have no doubt that within a few
years, usage and demand will have already determined the fields of
practice of each speciality, and we would earnestly request the Council
to take no steps to define or limit the scope of any speciality, since
we do not believe that this would necessarily be in the interests of
either patients or practitioners". Time has proved these comments
to have been justified.
oral medicine is an accepted integral part of the field of periodontics
today the principle initially caused some division of opinion. At a
meeting on 22nd February 1971 a motion accepting oral medicine as a part
of the practice of periodontology was approved by 12 votes to 2 with 5
abstentions. Understandably then that oral medicine remained the
step-child for a number of years. This was in spite of the fact
that the 1970 memorandum of the society motivating for a speciality
clearly outlined oral medicine as part of the field. Fortunately
opinions changed and 75 persons attended an oral medicine course held in
in 1978 a memorandum prepared by Dr Leon Maresky motivating a change in
the name of the speciality was considered by the Association and the
S.A. Society for Periodontoogy. The principle was approved by the
DASA at its Executive Committee meeting held in September of that year.
After protracted negotiations with the S.A. Medical and Dental Council,
a deputation of DASA consisting of the President of our Association, Dr.
A.G. Dreyer, Prof. J. Lemmer and Prof. W.P. Dreyer finally persuaded the
Council to accept a change in the name of the speciality to Oral
Medicine and Periodontics.
will no doubt prove to be a significant advance in the development of
the discipline in South Africa.
requires little foresight to predict that this change may eventually
lead to constitutional alteration and even a further change in the name
of the Society, It is quite interesting to note that Dr. A. Buskin, in
his Chairman's report for 1977, had already then made a plea for the
acknowledgement of oral medicine in the constitution of our Society.
EDUCATION AND VISITING LECTURERS
association between our Society and the academic institutions in South
Africa has always been particularly happy and co-operative. In some
small way the Society may pride itself that it had influenced the
establishment of departments of Oral Medicine and Periodontology at the
various Dental Schools in South Africa. It is gratifying to know that
the departmental heads at the schools are all longstanding and active
members of our Society, which can only help to enhance the co-operative
relationship in the years to come. The Society furthermore attempts to
stimulate the discipline by sponsoring annual prizes for the best
student in the subject at each Faculty, and by making annual library
a most important activity of the Society has been its programme of
continuing education courses. The outstanding visiting lecturers who
have presented these courses over the years have all had a profound
influence on the development of the discipline in South Africa.
first course was held in Johannesburg in March 1969 and was presented by
Dr. Gerald Kramer of Boston. Although this course was restricted to only
26 participants it was financially enormously successful and the profits
formed the basis of a lecturer's fund which proved to be invaluable in
later years. All told the visit of Dr. and Mrs. Kramer for 3 weeks cost
only R2 704,13! This is a far cry from the cost of bringing out a
lecturer, and his wife, today!
mid-July 1969 Dr. Harold FuIImer presented a short course on collagen
during his visit to South Africa to attend the International Pathology
Congress which was held in Johannesburg. In August of the same year Dr.
Leonard Abrams of Philadelphia presented a course in the newly acquired
headquarters of the DASA at Princess of Wales Terrace. This was possibly
the first course to be held in the old lecture hall of the Association
and the profits from the course even made it possible for the Society to
donate curtains for the unembellished windows of this old hall.
1971 Prof. Sigurd Ramfjord of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor was
the next guest for a course held from 2-4 September 1971. During his
visit Prof. Ramfjord presented a paper on a longitudinal study of
surgical versus conservative management of periodontal disease at the
annual conference of the South African Division of the International
Association for Dental Research (IADR). This paper caused the same
stir that was witnessed internationally when the results of his study
were subsequently published.
year 1971 also brought Dr. Morris Ruben of Boston to South Africa as
guest of the University of the Witwatersrand, and he presented a course,
inter alia, to the members of the Society. Prof. Harold Löe
of Aarhus, and later of Connecticut, was the next distinguished guest of
the Society. In January 1972 he gave a stimulating course during which
he presented the then recent and dramatic research data on plaque,
gingivitis and chemical plaque control. Incidentally, the fees for this
course amounted to only R30,00 which must still rate as the bargain of
the 20th century! Prof. Löe was kind enough to return to South Africa,
at short notice, as one of the invited lecturers at the 1972 Golden
Jubilee Congress of the DASA. Quite understandably this kind gesture of
stepping into the breach endeared him to scores of South African
dentists who undoubtedly felt a personal pride at Prof. Löe's election
as President of the IADR some years later.
Claude Nabers of San Antonio, Texas was the guest for 1974 for a course
which was held at the Sunnyside Park Hotel. During the following year
fellow-American, Dr. Herman Corn of Philadelphia, presented a
particularly stimulating course from 18-22 October 1975 at the Landdrost
Hotel in Johannesburg. Dr. M. Alderman, another American visited South
Africa in 1976 and he gave courses in Johannesburg, Durban and Port
Elizabeth on problems of the temporo-mandibular joint. This was the
first time that the Society had presented a course outside Johannesburg.
the 1977-Congress of the DASA, held at Stellenbosch, Prof. Jan Lindhe of
Gothenburg, Sweden presented a short course to members of the Society
and other interested congress delegates. Few of the persons present at
that lecture will lightly forget the dramatic presentation by this
dynamic Swede. Dr. Robert Schallhorn shared his knowledge on
periodontology, and bone grafts in particular, with the Society in
Johannesburg and Cape Town during courses held in October 1978. In 1979
Prof. Tony Melcher of Canada was a guest of the University of the
Witwatersrand who kindly allowed him to present a short course to
members of the Society. The members present were particularly pleased to
hear this distinguished ex-South African who can be regarded as one of
the fathers and founders of periodontology in South Africa.
Swede from Gothenburg, Prof. Sture Nyman, gave a course at Golden Gate
in January 1980. The outstanding course, the brilliance of the lecturer
and the beauty of the surrounds made for an unforgettable experience.
was with deep regret that the course to be held by Prof. Jens Waerhaug
in Cape Town in August 1980 had to be cancelled due to the sudden
illness and subsequent death of this doyen of periodontology.
prominent members of the international periodontal fraternity rubbed
shoulders with the Society during visits to South Africa under other
sponsorships. Amongst these were Dr. J.D. Manson (London), Prof. A.
Frandsen (Copenhagen), Prof. P. Goldhaber (Harvard, Boston) and Prof. T.
Karring (Aarhus), to mention just a few.
members' activity in the field of continuing education has not always
been passive. The first 100 meetings, the symposia held in conjunction
with the IADR and the exhibitions held at the 1972 and 1977 congresses
of the DASA have continued to enhance the standard of periodontics in
general practice. Furthermore, members of the Society, particularly Dr.
Cyril Evian, were extremely active in initiating the National Dental
Health Week. Who can deny the tremendous impact that this activity has
had on the dental awareness of the public of South Africa?
Society can look back on the last decade and a half with great
satisfaction. It is not the numerous meetings of a Society which brings
about great advances, but the enthusiasm and drive and hard work of its
members. In this latter regard the South African Society for
Periodontology has been blessed with great human resources.
can thus be stated without fear of contradiction that the South African
Society for Periodontology is looking forward to a brilliant future of
even greater achievements.
W P Dreyer presenting a honorary membership certificate to Dr Derrick
Dell with Prof. John Lemmer, who was also honoured, looking on.