Advertising your practice ethically

It's important to advertise and promote your services in an ethical and lawful way.

  • When advertising and marketing a dental practice, it's important to promote your services in a way that is ethical and lawful.
  • This is particularly important for online advertising.

Standards

Dental professionals have a duty to advertise in accordance with standards set by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

ASA requirements state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. They must not mislead, harm or offend.

The ASA has the power to remove any advert that they feel is unsuitable and refer persistent offenders who advertise inappropriately to other bodies, such as Trading Standards.

Advertising POMs

From January 2020, the GDC advised dental professionals to be aware of a new campaign launched by the ASA and CAP to try to tackle the unlawful advertising of botulinum toxin injections on social media. This campaign advised dental professionals to take immediate action to review their social media advertising and to make any necessary changes.

Botulinum toxin injections are prescription only medicines (POMs) and cannot be advertised to the public, even if administered by a registered healthcare professional.

From the end of January 2020, the ASA started taking targeted enforcement action. For those unwilling to comply, this can include referral to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or to the GDC as professional regulator.

GDC guidance

In its 'Standards for the dental team' (2013), the GDC states that 'you must make sure that any advertising, promotional material or other information that you produce is accurate and not misleading, and complies with the GDC's guidance on ethical advertising'.

The GDC's specific guidance on advertising expands on the importance of 'providing balanced, factual information' so patients can make informed choices about their treatment. It relates to both print and online material.

Promoting your services

For promotional material in print, you should make sure:

  • information is current and accurate
  • your GDC registration number is displayed
  • language used is unambiguous
  • you avoid making any statements or claims which could lead to unfulfilled expectations from patients.

For promotional material online, you need to make sure:

  • information is current and accurate
  • your GDC registration number is displayed
  • language used is unambiguous
  • you avoid making any statements or claims which could lead to unfulfilled expectations from patients.

For promotional material online, you need to make sure:

  • you display your qualification and from which country it is derived, as well as your GDC registration number.

Your website should include:

  • the name and geographic address of the dental service
  • contact details of the dental service, including email address and phone number
  • the GDC's address and other contact details and/or a link to the GDC website
  • details of the practice's complaints procedure and information regarding who patients may contact – namely the relevant NHS body for NHS treatment and the Dental Complaints Service for private treatment
  • the date the website was last updated.

Your website should be reviewed and updated regularly so that any information about staff and services offered is accurate.

Promoting practice personnel 

It's important that dental professionals do not describe themselves as 'specialist' or 'specialising in...' unless they are on the relevant GDC specialist list.

Patient photographs and testimonials 

If you wish to use testimonials and before-and-after photographs to advertise your services, make sure you have the appropriate consent.

  • Consent for the use of confidential patient information in marketing material should be contemporaneous and specific.
  • Patients need to understand precisely what information is retained, displayed or published, where and when, who will see it and the likely consequences.
  • Don't use identifiable patient material unless absolutely necessary, and obtain consent in every instance. Let the patient know that they can withdraw their consent at any time.

The majority of dental professionals who advertise do so ethically and in line with their legal obligations - but it's important to remember that not complying with guidance could risk action by the GDC and the ASA.

Contact the DDU if you have any questions or concerns about how you advertise.

This page was correct at publication on 16/07/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.