March 19, 2020

UK Dental Regulator acts on do-it-yourself orthodontics.


There is currently a lot of concern about direct to consumer orthodontic treatment. Recently the UK dental regulator, the General Dental Council, released a statement about this development. This is my interpretation.

I have posted about direct to consumer orthodontic treatment before. In these posts, I drew attention to the possibility that people scanning patients were working outside their scope of practice. In addition, the dentists approving the treatment were at risk of not taking valid consent and full diagnosis.

Several UK organisations and individuals raised their concerns about DTC ortho with the General Dental Council.

The General Dental Council statement

The GDC evaluated these concerns and released this statement. This is my interpretation of what they said.

On first reading, this may seem somewhat bland. However, the GDC tends to be cautious in some of its statements, while they obtain complete information. As a result, we should treat this as an interim statement.  The most important explanation is:

“We have received reports that providers of ‘direct-to-consumer orthodontics’ are offering services which may not include face to face patient contact with a registrant authorised to provide direct services to patients. Our view is that for all dental interventions, this important interaction between clinician and patient should take place at the beginning of the patient consultation. This enables the clinician to carry out the assessments necessary for making clinical judgements that ensure the suitability of the proposed course of treatment, that support the prescribed course of treatment, and that address any underlying oral health problems. It also gives patients the opportunity to ask questions, provide valid and informed consent and be satisfied that the course of treatment proposed is likely to meet their needs and expectations”.

They continue by saying.

“We have contacted providers of these services to seek clarification on the procedures they follow and how GDC registrants may be involved”.

My interpretation

I think that the GDC is being transparent and putting out a warning to the dentists and anyone else involved with this treatment provision. They are not taking on the direct to consumer orthodontic companies. They are targeting the people they regulate. This is an effective strategy.

Importantly, they have clearly stated that a lack of face to face consultation by the dentist does not satisfy the GDC Standards for the provision of care and obtaining valid consent.  As a result, if a patient complains about their care, then the dentist will be in breach of the standards.  They could then be subject to a fitness to practice investigation and lose their licence.

They also point out that they are investigating possible harms direct to consumer orthodontics and they will release a further statement in due course.

In effect, this is a carefully worded warning to the dentists and other registered professionals. This means that they should think carefully before working with direct to consumer orthodontic providers.  I would advise them to think carefully as they are putting their licence at considerable risk.


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Have your say!

  1. so the UK GDC is happy with non dentists undertaking dental treatment !!

    • Brilliant strategy! Way to go UK! I have a feeling all aligner therapy will take a huge hit due to COVID-19 and fixed appliances will re-surge to reduce hands in mouth….we will have great epidemiologic data in about a year….

  2. Their dentists are in other European countries.
    They won’t be able to do anything about it.
    I was contacted by a French Company to help them be a click monkey. Didn’t waste my replying obviously.

  3. The obvious loophole the companies offering DIY can utilise is to have treatment approved by a dentist (or maybe not even) outside the jurisdiction of the General Dental Council.

  4. The British Society for the Study of Craniomandibular Disorders (BSSCMD) is in complete agreement with you and with the GDC on its approach to this subject.

  5. The question is if the GDC sees it as their goal to protect

    a) ALL patients in the UK, including the ones that do not understand the risk of being treated by non-dentally qualified.
    b) just the ones treated by registered UK-professionals.

    If this was ‘motoring’ I would compare this to the police not caring about non-UK motorists speeding on UK roads.

  6. The problem is that these companies have a lot of money. They will sign contracts to indemnify dentists who agree to work with them, in case of litigation etc. In my view, professional organisations should start a campaign to educate patients regarding the risks involved in accepting treatment offers that are not properly diagnosed or monitored regularly by qualified clinicians.

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