As part of our statutory objective to protect the public, we continually monitor new developments in the dental sector. We are aware of a number of organisations offering services remotely which could constitute dentistry as defined in law, including the growth in ‘direct-to-consumer orthodontics’.
Orthodontic work is a sub-speciality of dentistry, primarily concerned with disturbances of the positions of the teeth (malocclusion) and the jaws that support them. Orthodontic treatment is how these problems are managed.
This work falls within the practice of dentistry (as defined by the Dentists Act 1984) which, amongst other things, requires individual dentists and dental care professionals to be registered with the GDC, to act within their Scope of Practice and to adhere to the GDC’s Standards for the Dental Team. Registered dental professionals who do not comply with these standards put their registration at risk. Anybody practising dentistry while not registered with the GDC could be subject to prosecution for illegal practice.
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 that the course of treatment proposed is likely to meet their needs and expectations.
We are continuing to gather evidence about the potential risk of harm to patients from ‘direct-to-consumer orthodontics’ and other forms of dental care offered remotely. We have contacted providers of these services to seek clarification on the procedures they follow and how GDC registrants may be involved. In parallel, we continue to welcome further advice and information from the dental professions.
We will issue a further statement when we have evaluated the evidence we are gathering. Until further guidance is available, dental professionals are reminded that they must consult their indemnity providers should they need further advice. Complaints received relating to these matters will continue to be addressed through our existing processes.