Oral health charity welcomes GDC statement on DIY orthodontics


  Posted by: The Probe      17th May 2021

The Oral Health Foundation welcomes the General Dental Council’s (GDC) fresh statement on direct-to-consumer orthodontics, also called DIY orthodontics. The charity believes that this announcement solidifies the critical role a trained dental professional plays in orthodontic treatment and underscores the importance of a physical face-to-face examination.

In recent years there has been an increasing demand for orthodontic treatment and specifically clear aligner treatments. Unfortunately, along with this rise we’ve also seen people increasingly look for ways to cut corners when it comes to orthodontic treatment in order to cut the price. This has led to the rise of direct-to-consumer orthodontics, also referred to as DIY orthodontics. These treatments are carried out remotely, with patients often not seeing a dental professional in person at any stage. The patient may also be asked to take on responsibility for certain steps in the treatment plan such as taking impressions of their teeth as well as photographs.

In response to this rise the GDC has now clarified that “clinical judgements about the suitability of a proposed course of orthodontic treatment must be based on a full assessment of the patient’s oral health. At present, there is no effective substitute for a physical, clinical examination as the foundation for that assessment”.

The GDC’s statement also went on to confirm that direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatments using clear aligners fall within the legal definition of dentistry meaning they can only be legally performed by a trained dental professional registered with the GDC.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, hopes this clear stance from the GDC will send a warning sign to anyone thinking of trying DIY orthodontics.

Dr Carter says: “When it comes to orthodontic treatment the input of a trained dental professional is key if both the patients’ expectations are to be met and also to ensure safety. Innovation in orthodontic treatments is always welcome however it must not come at the expense of patient safety or effectiveness. What this statement from the GDC emphasises is the role professional orthodontists play in providing safe and effective treatment. It also underscores the need for a physical examination in order to be able to effectively assess a patient.”

The Oral Health Foundation has long been aware of the need for patients to be able to make informed and safe decisions when it comes to orthodontic treatment. That is why the charity set up SafeBrace in partnership with the British Orthodontic Society. The campaign aims to offer the public independent and impartial information and advice about all things orthodontics. This includes the processes involved and how to get orthodontic treatment in a safe and effective manner.

The British Orthodontic Society also agree that this statement from the GDC around DIY orthodontics is a step in the right direction.

Director of External Relations, Anjli Patel says: “The GDC’s announcement is about the most fundamental element of healthcare – patient safety. We are delighted that our concerns have been heard by the GDC and acted upon. However, as the voice of orthodontics in the UK, we still have reservations about how any wrongdoing by DIY orthodontic companies could be picked up by authorities and we don’t want patients falling through regulatory cracks. Patients don’t know what they don’t know – we will endeavour to give them all the facts.”

For more information about orthodontics and the SafeBrace campaign head to www.safebrace.org. Alternatively, if anyone would like oral health advice they can call our Dental Helpline by calling 01788 539780*. The confidential Helpline is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

*Calls are charged at your standard network rate

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