African traditional medicine is widely used in South Africa. African traditional health practitioners treat
patients who present with a variety of medical conditions, including oral health conditions. The aim of
this study was to determine the knowledge, and practices of African traditional health practitioners
regarding oral health conditions.
Materials and Methods
A cross-sectional survey of 11 African traditional health practitioners who consented to be interviewed
in the Johannesburg area was recruited to participate in a structured questionnaire survey, followed by
focus group interviews with 10 practitioners. Ethical approval was obtained from the Biomedical
Research Ethics Committee (BREC ref. no 451/19). Following the collection of data from the
questionnaire administration, a focus group interview was conducted. Data on the knowledge, treatment
practices, and post-treatment management of four common oral conditions was collected and analysed.
Eleven participants who consented to be interviewed, their average age was 44.1 (±8.1) years, with a
range of 21-67 years, and a slight majority of female (55.5%, n=6). Ten further participants took part
in focus group interviews. African traditional health practitioners were asked a series of questions, in
non-dental terminology or language, related to their knowledge (causes); practise (what do you use to
treat?, What advise do you give to the patient?); of four common oral health conditions. These are:
sores on the lips, sores on the tongue, swollen gums and toothache. Participants reported using a variety
of practices such as throwing bones, burning incense, using plants and animal product, as well as
commercially manufactured products to treat and manage patients.
The results of the study reveal that there are vast differences in knowledge, management practices and
treatment modalities of African traditional healthcare practitioners. Further research in the knowledge,
practises and treatment of oral healthcare practitioners needs to be conducted. Mutual cooperation,
collaboration and integrating African traditional health practitioners into primary oral healthcare
services need to be urgently prioritised.||en_US