The danger of ‘Direct-to-Consumer’ orthodontic treatment

Nov 18, 2022

For some time now we have been very concerned about the growing number of firms on the internet and social media, offering direct to consumer services for clear aligners.

For some time now we have been very concerned about the growing number of firms on the internet and social media, offering direct to consumer services for clear aligners. The reason for our concern is that many of those offering this treatment are fundamentally risking patients’ oral health by not complying with General Dental Council (GDC) regulations.

In a recent announcement, the GDC have very clearly identified where these companies are failing to meet with their standards and warn of the consequences for failing to do so.

For instance, some simply ask you to take a cast of your own teeth (try this and you will see how difficult it is to do), send in photos or request information from the patient’s dentist.

The GDC have this to say about it:

“The GDC is aware of an increasing number of organisations offering services remotely, including ‘direct-to-consumer’ orthodontics using clear aligners. These services fall within the legal definition of dentistry so can only be performed by dentists and dental care professionals who are registered with the GDC. All dental professionals must adhere to the GDC’s Standards for the Dental Team. Anybody practising dentistry while not registered with the GDC could be subject to prosecution for illegal practice.

“The Standards for the Dental Team apply to all dental professionals in all treatment settings, including interactions provided on a remote platform. These standards provide a framework within which dental professionals take decisions and provide safe and effective care to patients.

“There is likely to be a range of interactions between dental professionals and patients which can be provided safely and effectively on a remote platform in full compliance with the Standards for the Dental Team. However, for other aspects of the patient care pathway, a face-to-face interaction or a physical clinical assessment will be necessary to ensure patient safety.

“In line with current authoritative clinical guidance, and orthodontic training, 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.

“Should a dentist rely upon information from another source, for example information from another dental professional about a clinical examination they have conducted, to inform their own clinical judgement, the responsibility for that judgement rests wholly with the prescribing dentist. As in all cases, the treating dentist must make and keep a full patient record, including the reasons for any decision to deviate from established practice and guidance.

“As in any other setting, it is the responsibility of the treating dentist to ensure that they communicate directly and effectively with their patients, explain the treatment options available, and obtain valid consent both at the outset and throughout any course of treatment. Direct interaction between patient and practitioner is essential for providing patients the opportunity to ask questions, provide consent, and be satisfied that that the course of treatment proposed is likely to meet their needs and expectations. Patients must know the full name of the dental professional responsible for their treatment and be able to make direct contact with that person.”

If you are ever tempted to take this option to have your teeth straightened, please check that the company offering this service is registered with the GDC and are appropriately indemnified.

At Confident Orthodontics, whilst we can provide an initial assessment online, safely and securely, to access possible types of treatment needed for a patient, the final decision and a discussion is still left until after a proper face to face consultation. Your welfare is paramount to us, we really want you to leave with a confident smile, great oral health and the best teeth alignment possible.

If cost is what is drawing you to a possibly risky alternative, please ask us about our finance options – all of which are interest free.

To read the full GDC statement here.