The rise in prevalence of cosmetic dentistry services such as brace fittings and dental veneers by illegal dental practitioners has caused much concern for the Malaysian Health Ministry. Since 2015, a total of 46 reports had been made relating to illegal dental practitioners, with 18 cases brought to court.

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Health Director-General recently shared the ministry’s concerns that the general public were unaware that the services offered were not by licensed dentists. He added that these services appeared to be attractive as they were attainable at a low price.

Risks of procedures done by unlicensed practitioners

“The MOH would like to remind the public to be wary of the risks that come with availing the services of illegal dental practitioners,” said Noor Hisham.

“The adverse effects or complications that may occur are pain, infections, mouth ulcers, loose teeth, unusual movement of teeth, dental caries, tooth loss, as well as gum abscess.”

He added that there was also a risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis from the equipment, as they were not sterilised appropriately after each use. Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry had been loaded with complaints from consumers who suffered adverse effects and complications from the procedures done by illegal dental practitioners.

“This includes making dentures, scaling, and tooth whitening,” he said. Tooth whitening products (with acid concentration of less than 0.01%) were readily sold in the market and can be self-applied by customers.

However, he explained, procedures which use tooth whitening products that exceed the prescribed concentration should only be done by qualified dental practitioners registered with the Malaysian Dental Council under the Dental Act 1971 and carried out in health premises registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.

Heavy fines for illegal practitioners

Director of Terengganu Health Department, Dr Mohammad Omar said the first case recorded in Terengganu was in 2015 involving a woman and she was fined RM20,000, followed by another case last year, where a woman was fined RM25,000. That state has recorded four cases of illegal brace fitting by unlicensed dentists since 2015.

“This year, we detected two cases in which one of them was brought to court while the suspect in another case fled abroad while waiting for a hearing date in court.”

“We have been working with the Immigration Department to trace the suspect's whereabouts and the suspect will be subjected to appropriate punishment upon returning to Malaysia,” he added at the state World Oral Health Day recently.

The modus operandi was to carry out brace fitting services at a hotel room or homestay at a very low price. “They advertised the dental brace fitting services illegally through social media, namely Facebook and Instagram.”

“If the customers are interested, they will be in touch via Whatsapp application to make an appointment. Most of them do not have any background in dentistry, some just study brace fitting from YouTube and friends,” he explained.

Quality healthcare for the public

Meanwhile, Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said lately that the government aims to provide universal access to quality healthcare and, thus, must put emphasis on all areas of health including oral health by establishing a wide range of facilities.

“All parties should be aware that people's health is not the responsibility of government and service providers alone, the people have to be proactive in taking care of their own health,” said Hilmi. MIMS

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