The growing problem of illegal dentistry

When we visit the dentist most of us take it for granted that we are being seen to by a fully qualified and registered expert in the field – but this is not always the case. You may not have heard of illegal dentistry, but it is an emerging issue in the UK dental sector.

An illegal dentist is defined as an individual who practices dentistry and who is either:

  • not registered with the General Dental Council, or
  • performing dentistry that is outside their level of qualifications, for instance a dental technician providing dentures directly to customers or working independently in a clinic.

In the United States illegal dentistry is already a serious issue, so much so that the Office of the Surgeon General estimates that some 108 million children and adults have no dental coverage and are consequently forced to turn to illegal dentists.

Unfortunately the practice appears to be spreading. Increasing numbers of stories are appearing in the UK press of shady, underhand dentists who go house to house and perform procedures in unsanitary environments. Just one example occurred in 2011, when Mr Steven Sickelmore from Dawlish was convicted of operating an illegal denture fitting and supply business from his home.

Mr Sickelmore was visiting patients in their homes to take teeth moulds and then producing his own substandard dentures. This eventually led to several complains from displeased customers. It was found that not only was he not registered with the GDC, but he was actually not even qualified to perform the procedures in question at all.

Such instances of illegal dentistry can have far-reaching effects which are both financially and physically devastating for the individuals involved. Not only have they wasted money on a second-rate service, but dental procedures performed by unqualified individuals in unsanitary environments can pose serious health risks.

So what’s to be done about illegal dentistry? First and foremost, the police and legal community must remain vigilant and ensure that people operating illegally as dentists, denturists and other types of dental professional are punished for their crimes. But in addition the public also needs to be educated about the risks of going to an illegal dentist, and be given access to information on what separates GDC registered, qualified individuals from those practicing dentistry illegally in their home.

We can only hope that, with the combined efforts of the legal community, the police, the public, the media and the dental community, the problem of illegal dentistry is stamped out before it becomes an even larger issue.

Our dentists are all fully trained and qualified experts who are registered with the GDC. Call us here at Dental Care Partnership on 0121 354 1922 to book an appointment with one of our friendly team.