British Dental Regulator, GDC, Issues Statements About Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics
Documents Caution Practitioners and Patients about DTC Treatment
St. Louis, June 17, 2021 – In May, the United Kingdom’s General Dental Council (GDC), the regulatory body governing the practice of dentistry and dental specialties in the United Kingdom, issued three documents concerning direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment, each statement outlined concern for patient care and doctor oversight.
In the document, “GDC Statement on ‘Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment,” the GDC stated that it welcomes innovations that permit remote interactions with dental patients and noted that implementing such technologies into dentistry practices has increased. However, the GDC cautioned against compromising patient health and safety in the name of innovation, stating, “It is imperative that any innovation that affects the provision of dental services does not compromise fundamental patient safety measures or public confidence in dental services.” In particular, the GDC highlighted direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment as one such area of concern.
All three GDC documents were consistent with protecting the health and safety of patients regarding direct-to-consumer (DTC) orthodontic treatment, with the main concerns listed below:
• DTC treatment is the practice of dentistry: Direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment using clear aligners “falls within the legal definition of dentistry so can only be performed by dentists and dental care professionals who are registered with the GDC.”
• In-person examinations are crucial for orthodontic treatment: For treatment, “a face-to-face interaction or a physical clinical assessment will be necessary to ensure patient safety.” Moreover, clinical judgments 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.”
• Informed consent can only occur with direct doctor/patient interaction: “Direct interaction between patient and practitioner is essential for providing patients the opportunity to ask questions, provide consent, and be satisfied that the course of treatment proposed is likely to meet their needs and expectations.”
• Treating doctor must keep patient records: The treating dentist “must make and keep a full patient record, including the reasons for any decision to deviate from established practice and guidance.”
• Patient must be able to directly contact their doctor: “Patients must know the full name of the dental professional responsible for their treatment and be able to make direct contact with that person.”
For detailed information on the GDC’s findings, click here.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) fully supports the GDC’s effort to protect patient health and safety by raising concerns about direct-to-consumer treatment. The AAO has also had the same concerns raised by the GDC. The AAO actively advocates for patient safety with state dental boards and legislators in the United States. The AAO will encourage state dental boards and legislators in the U.S. to review the actions taken by the GDC regarding direct-to-consumer orthodontics in the United Kingdom.