Lifting the veneer on cosmetic procedures by dental practitioners

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non-surgical cosmetic procedures guidelines dentists
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Practitioners and patients are being urged to exercise caution when considering aesthetic dental procedures, as consultations to strengthen safeguards on the wider non-surgical cosmetic procedures industry begin.

Consultations on proposed new guidelines for registered health practitioners performing and advertising non-surgical cosmetic procedures opened this week, and submissions can be made for the next 10 weeks.

Cosmetic procedures ranging from anti-wrinkle injections, fillers and botulinum toxin products, to fat dissolving injections and thread lifts are frequently performed by doctors, nurses, dentists and other health practitioners across Australia.

National Boards are reforming the safeguards for non-surgical cosmetic procedures to improve practice and public safety standards across health professions, as well as informed consumer choice.

While cosmetic services can positively impact many people’s lives, Dental Board of Australia (DBA) chair Dr Murray Thomas warned that procedures such as tooth veneers can be major lifelong undertakings that are not risk free.

“The lines between dentistry undertaken for cosmetic or clinical purposes can often be blurred because restoring form, function and aesthetics are integral to all dentistry,” Dr Thomas said.

“Regardless of the reason they are providing care, practitioners have a responsibility to put patients’ interests first to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“Undergoing any procedure can carry a risk, and treatments such as porcelain tooth veneers may be irreversible and lifelong—that is why we are strengthening safeguards to better protect patients and guide practitioners,” Dr Thomas added.

“Practitioners must ensure patients are provided adequate time to properly consider the risk of cosmetic procedures, that realistic expectations are set, and that informed consent, including financial consent, is gained.”

The proposed two new practice guidelines will place a stronger emphasis on informed consent and pre-procedure consultation, including a patient suitability assessment. They will apply to all practitioners performing non-surgical cosmetic procedures (excluding medical practitioners who are already subject to the MBA’s Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures).

Proposed new advertising guidelines for all registered health practitioners include clearer rules on the use of influencers and social media figures, as well as a focus on before and after images, claims about experience and qualifications and reinforcement of the existing ban on the use of testimonials.

An Ahpra audit earlier this year found 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 all practitioners need to be aware of their responsibilities in marketing as well as patient care.

Dr Thomas said that National Boards, including the DBA, are developing additional resources to help practitioners meet their obligations when performing cosmetic procedures. 

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

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