Illegal Practice

We are here to make sure you get the best standard of care and that the public can be confident that the dental profession is being properly regulated.

Illegal practice

By law, the following groups of professionals have to be registered with us to work in the UK:

  • Dentists;

  • Clinical dental technicians;

  • Dental hygienists;

  • Dental nurses;

  • Dental technicians;

  • Dental therapists; and

  • Orthodontic therapists.

To find out if a dental professional is registered with us you can search our register.

Illegal practice is where a person who is not registered as one of the above professionals (or is one of the professionals above, but currently suspended from practise) does one of the following:

  • ​Practises, holds themselves out as practising or as being prepared to practise dentistry;

  • Using one of the professional titles listed below (see Criminal Prosecutions) when they are not in fact a registered dental professional;

  • Carries on the business of dentistry.​​

It is also illegal for a body corporate to carry on the business of dentistry if a majority of its directors are not registered dental professionals. If a dental profession is erased or suspended from the register, it is also illegal for them to sit as a director of a body corporate carrying on the business of dentistry at any time during the period of erasure or suspension remains in effect.

Criminal prosecutions

Section 38 of The Dentists Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence for a person who is not a registered dentist or a registered dental care professional to practise dentistry, or hold themselves out whether directly or by implication as practising or as being prepared to practise dentistry.

In accordance with section 38 of the Dentists Act, we have the power to bring criminal prosecutions where we have sufficient evidence that individuals are practising dentistry without being registered with us.

Under sections 41 or 43 of the Dentists Act we also have the power to bring a prosecution against an individual or company where it is operating the business of dentistry without the majority of its directors being registered with us.

Section 39 of the Dentists Act also makes it an offence for an individual to use any of the following titles, either alone or in combination with any other word, unless they are registered with us:

  • Dentist;

  • Dental surgeon;

  • Dental practitioner;

  • Clinical dental technician;

  • Dental hygienist;

  • Dental nurse;

  • Dental technician;

  • Dental therapist; and

  • Orthodontic therapist.

In order to bring a criminal prosecution, we need to obtain evidence that an offence has taken place.

If we receive information that an offence might be occurring, we can instruct our investigators and solicitors to investigate and gather evidence.

Once collected, this evidence goes through the two-stage test set out in the code for crown prosecutors, to assess whether a prosecution may be brought:

  1. Is there sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction?

  2. If there is, is it in the public interest to pursue the matter to a prosecution?

Where these two tests are passed, our solicitors can take the case to the magistrates' court. A fine can be imposed if the prosecution is successful.

Examples of some of the things that may constitute illegal practice:

  • Teeth Whitening

  • Using any of the protected titles above

  • Taking impressions of a patient's mouth

  • Making and/or fitting dentures directly to the public

  • Implant treatment, root canal treatment when not a registered dentist

  • A dental professional continuing to practise dentistry when erased/suspended by a Practice Committee (including interim suspension)​.

Previous prosecutions

Details of previous prosecutions brought by the GDC can be found in Illegal Practice Prosecutions.

Make a complaint

If you would like to report someone you believe to be practising illegally you can do so in one of the following ways:

  • by completing the online form;

  • by calling 020 7167 6000;

  • by writing to: Illegal Practice, General Dental Council, 37 Wimpole Street, London. W1G 8DQ​​​

Related content

Contact GDC

+44 (0) 20 7167 6000

37 Wimpole Street

London W1G 8DQ


Secure area for dental professionals