Dental Tribune International

Direct-to-consumer orthodontics—GDC says innovation must not compromise patient safety

By Jeremy Booth, Dental Tribune International
May 20, 2021

LONDON, UK: The General Dental Council (GDC) has welcomed innovation in dentistry, including where treatment and consultations occur remotely, but has emphasised the responsibility of dental teams to provide safe patient-centred care. All dental professionals in all treatment settings must be registered with the GDC and abide by its standards of care, the regulator stressed.

In its latest statement on direct-to-consumer orthodontics, the GDC pointed out that remote treatment can be beneficial to patients as it improves the accessibility and affordability of care. These and other benefits have resulted in changing expectations on the part of patients and an increase in demand for remote treatment, the GDC said. It warned, however, that innovation and shifting trends in the provision of orthodontic care must not compromise patient safety and public confidence in dental services.

“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,” the regulator’s statement read. It emphasised that all dental professionals must adhere to the GDC framework document, Standards for the Dental Team, and that practising dentistry without being registered with the GDC could result in prosecution for illegal practice.

“[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”

“The Standards for the Dental Team apply to all dental professionals in all treatment settings, including interactions provided on a remote platform,” the GDC said.

Although the regulator believes that a number of interactions between patients and dental professionals can be provided safely via remote platforms, it commented that a physical clinical assessment is necessary for other aspects of patient care.

“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,” the statement read.

The GDC stressed that the treating dentist is responsible for direct communication with patients to discuss treatment options, answer questions about patient needs and expectations, and obtain valid consent. Patients must know the full name of the treating dentist and have the option of contacting him or her directly.

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