Many people may not even realise that there is such a thing as ‘illegal dentistry’, but it’s actually an emerging issue in the UK dental sector.
An ‘illegal dentist’ is defined as any individual practising dentistry that is either:
• not registered with the General Dental Council; or
• performing dentistry that is outside their level of qualifications, for instance a dental technician providing dentures directly to consumers or working independently in a clinic.
Illegal dentistry is already a serious issue in the United States, where the Office of the Surgeon General estimates that some 108 million children and adults have no dental coverage and are therefore forced to turn to illegal dentists.
And we’re seeing more and more stories in UK newspapers of shady, backroom dentists who make house calls and perform procedures in unsanitary environments. For example, last November a man from Dawlish, Mr Steven Sickelmore, was convicted of operating an illegal denture fitting and supply business from his home.
Mr Sickelmore was visiting patients in their homes to take teeth moulds and producing sub-standard dentures, eventually causing a few complaints from disgruntled customers. It was found that not only was he not registered with the GDC, he was actually not qualified to perform these procedures.
The effects of such instances of illegal dentistry can be financially and physically devastating for the individuals involved; not only are they left seriously out of pocket, but dental procedures performed by unqualified individuals in unsanitary environments pose serious health risks.
So what’s to be done?
In addition to the police and legal community remaining vigilant and ensuring that people operating illegally as dentists, denturists and other forms of dental professional are punished for their crimes, the public needs to be educated about the risks of going to an illegal dentist, and also about what separates GDC registered, qualified individuals from the cowboys.
Sites like http://dentureprofessionals.org.uk/ are a prime example of the dental community’s response to this need for education. The site combines helpful advice and guidance on dentures and choosing a clinical dental technician with a directory of GDC regulated clinical dental technicians.
The hope is that the combined efforts of the legal community, the police, media and dental community will ensure that the problem of illegal dentistry is stamped out before it becomes a major issue.
About Denture Professionals – Denture Professionals is a website from the British Association of Clinical Dental Technology, which provides useful information & advice about dentures, as well as a directory of member dental technicians.