‘DIY’ orthodontic warning

14 October, 2019 / infocus

Profession faces risk by working for direct-to-consumer firms for dental professionals

Dental professionals could be referred to their governing bodies if they undertake work for direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies.

The warning from the British Orthodontic Society (BOS) comes in the wake of the UK launch of SmileDirectClub, a US start-up. It has opened 16 ‘SmileShops’ in cities across the country, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. The company is investing $380 million in its UK operations and plans to employ more than 300 people, including dentists, orthodontists, and dental nurses.

According to a press release accompanying the launch, SmileDirectClub has “pioneered a unique teledentistry platform to connect customers with an affiliated network of UK-based registered dentists or orthodontists who direct all aspects of clinical care using SmileDirectClub’s platform”.

But the BOS said it would be informing the General Dental Council, the Care Quality Commission, which is responsible for inspecting dental practices in England, and the Advertising Standards Authority of its concerns.

In the US, the American Association of Orthodontists has lodged complaints about SmileDirectClub with dental boards and regulatory authorities in 36 US states. The American Dental Association has also filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration.

Speaking at a press conference during the BOS’s annual conference in Glasgow last month, its president, Jonathan Sandler, declined to name any specific firm, but said: “We are about to inform the General Dental Council that we believe illegal dentistry is being undertaken in this country.”

He added: “It’s too early at the moment to provide a large amount of evidence that patients are being harmed [in the UK]. But it would appear to me self-evident that harm is going to result from this approach to treatment.”

As Scottish Dental went to print, a spokesperson for SmileDirectClub said they were unable to comment as the company was still in the ‘quiet period’, as dictated by US securities law, following its stock market launch last month. However, a page on its website says the services it offers are not ‘do-it-yourself’ or ‘over the counter’ and details the standards adhered to by its products and network of professionals.

A spokesperson for the General Dental Council said: “We are aware of a number of organisations offering services remotely, which could constitute dentistry as defined in the Dentists Act 1984. We are looking into a number of regulatory issues in relation to this and we look forward to sharing our position once that work is complete. While this work is ongoing, should we receive information that could amount to an allegation of impairment, we will, of course, continue to refer registrants to fitness to practise as appropriate.”

Read more “Warning: DIY orthodontics are here” our BOC 2019 report.

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