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Beware the many faces of illegal dentistry

THE Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) is deeply concerned about the ongoing illegal dental practices in this country. Some have even blamed the association or authorities for not taking steps to counter this serious matter.

The issue is more than the roadside tooth pullers or sidewalk instant dentures that we know of in the past. At one point, we were shocked by the number of news reports on fake dentists, some of whom were successfully prosecuted in court.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to discourage other perpetrators. Enter a keyword in an Internet search engine and one can immediately see an alarming number of advertisements from these fake dentists.

Although much awareness has been created in the past and even recently, these illegal services are just too attractive for the public to resist. Fake braces, which offer a quick fix for crooked teeth at a very attractive price, remain very popular.

One can secure an appointment for the said procedure by simply sending a text message. The illegal service is usually carried out in non-clinical settings such as hotel rooms or residential houses. Victims of such services suffer tremendously from poorly delivered "treatment", which often causes more harm than before the procedure was carried out. Most times, the cost to treat the complications is heftier than seeking treatment from a licensed dentist right from the start.

These fake dentists are not trained personnel and do not use materials approved by the Medical Device Authority of the Health Ministry. To make matters worse, these illegal procedures are not carried out according to standard infection control protocols, which is of utmost importance to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, between patients and practitioners.

Then there are the so-called "beauticians" who are using dental instruments, again not approved, on their customers, thinking that what they are doing is just part of the general aesthetic services like "manicuring" teeth or facial treatment. What is even more worrying is that there are courses to train the general public on how to be a so-called dental beautician.

The MDA is completely baffled at how these academies are advertising openly on social media. If not curbed, these newly-minted beauticians will eventually dupe and “treat” the unsuspecting public, providing fake veneers, fake braces and illegal whitening procedures. The danger of putting up thick white coverings for a quick fix for crooked teeth or to achieve a movie-star smile often results in customers having to get them removed because of severe gum disease, which is bound to develop.

We now also have companies with fantastic ideas for treating dental problems without seeing a dentist. We are aware of outlets that offer do-it-yourself whitening services at malls, using bleaching chemicals or home-delivered teeth whitening kits. Customer care service has been reported to be poor and often leads to frustration. The fact that there was no physical contact or application of the whitening solution on the customer does not mean these companies are not liable.

We are also aware of companies that opened outlets offering "invisible" braces, again without an appointment with a dental practitioner. Some deliver starter packs to consumers who are requested to take a mould of their teeth (dental impression) and a set of invisible braces would be delivered to their doorsteps a few days later.

These services are advertised openly on social media. If at all a dentist is needed, these companies often partner with the latter to help them take dental impressions or dental X-rays. Such a concept of service is totally unacceptable and is misleading the general public.

The law states that any form of dental treatment has to be delivered by a dental practitioner, who is registered with the Malaysian Dental Council, at a registered dental clinic. Just like our medical doctor colleagues, it takes years of training to practice safely. There is so much science behind all of these treatments, and dentistry is not "carpentry" work that any layman can do.

We need a hassle-free and concerted effort involving multiple authorities to clamp down on illegal dentistry. The MDA strongly feels that the only way to battle this is through a smart partnership with all the relevant stakeholders. This is important so that the whole nation can receive high quality and safe dental treatment.

News Courtesy: The star

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