Under control: regulation and safety

Safe treatment should be at the top of every consumer’s cosmetic dentistry wish list. With this in mind, Nicola Kramer investigates how, and to what extent, a dental patient’s wellbeing is safeguarded in the UK


When contemplating any form of cosmetic dentistry, one of the first questions a patient needs to ask is: How safe is it?

The great news for consumers in the UK is that the entire dental market, including cosmetic dentistry, is well regulated by the General Dental Council (GDC). To this end, since 2008, every member of a clinical dental team has had to register with the GDC to be able to work in the UK.

Each dental professional must operate within their scope of practice, which is specified by the GDC, and adhere to its Standards for Dental Professionals guidance. Any team member working outside that scope of practice will face sanctions and, if a patient lodges a complaint about the conduct of a dental professional, their actions will be measured against these standards.

Evlynne Gilvarry, chief executive and registrar of the GDC, says: “Everything we do is with patient protection in mind. Dental professionals are required to observe high standards to ensure dental treatment is safe. I would advise any patient or member of the public to log on to our website at www.gdc-uk.org to check that their dental professional is registered and to read the leaflets we provide. They can also contact our customer advice team with any questions they might have.”

While dentists are currently the first port of call for consumers, the Office of Fair Trading is considering whether patients should have direct access to dental hygienists and therapists. This would essentially allow patients to receive hygiene treatment without having to see a dentist first. If direct access is allowed in the future, such practice will be held to the same high standards the GDC already expects of it registrants.

Beyond traditional aesthetic dentistry, cosmetic injectable treatments such as Botox® and dermal fillers are also a growing offering in some dental practices. The website www.TreatmentsYouCanTrust.org.uk helps consumers to make an informed decision, allowing them to search for dentists registered with the scheme who meet the strict standards and training principles set by the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services in addition to guidelines from the GDC.

Registered dentist and clinical director of Destination Skin, Dr Toni Phillips, says: “Aesthetic treatments are a significant area of growth in the treatments dentists are providing, making the need for ensuring patient safety increasingly important. www.TreatmentsYouCanTrust.org.uk ensures that dentists are able to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining high standards to inspire their patients with confidence.”

Through various forms of regulation, cosmetic dentistry consumers in the UK can feel confident that their interests are being put first.