Cosmetic procedures by dental practitioners are not without risk

cosmetic dentistry risks
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Ahpra and National Boards are urging practitioners and patients to exercise caution when considering dental procedures undertaken for cosmetic purposes. 

While cosmetic dentistry can positively impact many people’s lives, the Dental Board of Australia (DBA) warns that procedures such as tooth veneers can be major lifelong undertakings that are not risk free.

National Boards, including the DBA, will soon be consulting on proposed new guidelines for registered health practitioners performing and advertising non-surgical cosmetic procedures. They are also developing additional resources to help practitioners meet their obligations when performing cosmetic procedures. 

“Restoring form, function and aesthetics or appearance are integral to dentistry, so the lines between procedures undertaken for cosmetic purposes and addressing a clinical need are often blurred,” DBA chair Dr Murray Thomas said.

“Regardless of the reason for providing care, practitioners have a responsibility to put patients’ interests first to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. This includes when undertaking procedures for cosmetic purposes, which can sometimes be major undertakings. Practitioners must ensure patients are provided adequate time to properly consider the impact of cosmetic procedures, that realistic expectations are set, and that informed consent, including financial consent, is gained.”

In a recent audit, two-thirds of dental practitioners were advertising online and via social media, with almost one in five appearing to breach at least one aspect of the current advertising guidelines.

Potential breaches include the false and misleading use of specialist titles, such as specialising in cosmetic dentistry, and the use of promotions and specials without terms and conditions. 

Further and more extensive audits will be undertaken in the future, so the Board is calling on all practitioners to be aware of their responsibilities in marketing as well as patient care.

The Board receives and considers complaints (notifications) made about dental practitioners. The Board cannot take action when the concerns raised in a notification relate solely to a patient’s dissatisfaction with a cosmetic outcome.

Dr Thomas said the Board has received complaints from dissatisfied consumers, prompting it to issue guidance to practitioners and patients. 

Practitioners are encouraged to use the self-assessment tool on Ahpra’s advertising hub to ensure their advertising complies with the National Law.

“We know practitioners want to do the right thing and advertise responsibly, so we encourage them to make use of the tools available to help them meet their requirements to the law, and most importantly to their patients,” Dr Thomas said.

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