Cosmetic dentistry is popular, but it also raises a number of dento-legal issues for dental professionals to be aware of.
You must be convinced the proposed treatment is reasonable, in line with current accepted practice and in the patient's best interest. You should decline to provide treatment if you don't judge it to be clinically appropriate - however persuasive the patient may be.
Make every effort to explain to patients what the proposed treatment involves as well as its costs, risks and benefits, along with its alternatives, including delaying or not proceeding with the treatment at all.
The GDC expects dental professionals to provide a written treatment plan that sets out the treatment and cost, to be signed by the patient. But bear in mind that giving and obtaining consent is a process, not a one-off event. A signed treatment plan does not prove you obtained consent.
Training and indemnity
The GDC expects dental professionals to ensure they are appropriately trained and indemnified for any task they undertake.
Tooth whitening is included in our standard subscription rates for dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists. Dental hygienists and therapists who carry out tooth whitening must work to the prescription of a dentist who has examined the patient and assessed their suitability for the treatment. The first application in a treatment cycle must be under the supervision of a dentist who is on the surgery premises at the time of treatment.
If you're a dental hygienist or therapist and want to undertake tooth whitening, let us know by calling our membership team on 0800 085 0614 with details for the training you've completed.
Botulinum toxin injections and non-permanent resorbable dermal fillers
We also provide indemnity for suitably trained dentists undertaking botulinum toxin injections and non-permanent resorbable dermal fillers performed to the lips or the face, but excluding the neck or any other part of the body.
This indemnity is included in our standard subscription rates for general dental practitioners, although you should still notify the DDU membership team if you are planning to undertake this type of work.
A supplement is applicable for recently qualified dentists and if your gross income for this work is over £8,000 per year. If you want to be indemnified for this, call our membership team with details of the training you have completed.
We only indemnify members performing treatments with dermal fillers approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A list of approved fillers can be found here. Brand names may differ slightly in the UK, but we are happy for DDU members to use the equivalent UK product if the manufacturer and product are the same as the US product listed. Please contact us if you need more clarification on this.
We do not indemnify DCPs for facial cosmetic procedures.
Advertising cosmetic treatments
The GDC's guidance on advertising (2013) states that adverts must "back up claims with facts" and "avoid statements or claims intended or likely to create an unjustified expectation about the results you can achieve".
It also explains that if you wish to offer services your training as a dental professional does not qualify you to provide, you must "make sure you undertake appropriate additional training to attain the necessary competence. You must not mislead patients into believing that you are trained and competent to provide other services purely by the virtue of your primary qualification as a healthcare professional, but you should make clear that you have undertaken extra training to achieve competence".
There are also specific rules around the advertising of prescription only medicines (POMs). For more information, read our article in the DDU journal.
This page was correct at publication on 08/10/2021. 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.