The South African Society for Periodontology

The 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 tudents 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.

Perhaps the most significant development stemming from the activities of this Society was the establishment of periodontics as a speciality.

The 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.

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, contributing to the increasingly well-known speciality it is today.