Cosmetic dentistry targeted

Practitioners performing and advertising non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including increasingly popular aesthetic dental procedures, could face a crackdown.

Consultation has opened on proposed guidelines in a bid to safeguard the wider non-surgical cosmetic procedures industry, ensuring that patients can ask important questions when considering procedures, so they are well informed and aware of the risks. 

Consultation opened this week and will continue to receive submissions for the next 10 weeks. 

While cosmetic services could positively impact many people’s lives, Dental Board of Australia Chair, Dr Murray Thomas, warned that procedures such as tooth veneers could be a major undertaking. 

“The lines between dentistry undertaken for cosmetic or clinical purposes can often be blurred because restoring form, function and aesthetics are integral to all dentistry,” Dr Thomas said. 

“Regardless of the reason they are providing care, practitioners have a responsibility to put patients’ interests first to achieve the best possible outcomes. 

“Undergoing any procedure can carry a risk, and treatments such as porcelain tooth veneers may be irreversible and lifelong — that is why we are strengthening safeguards to better protect patients and guide practitioners. 

“Practitioners must ensure patients are provided adequate time to properly consider the risk of cosmetic procedures, that realistic expectations are set, and that informed consent, including financial consent, is gained.” 

The proposed two new practice guidelines will place a stronger emphasis on informed consent and pre-procedure consultation, including a patient suitability assessment.  

They will apply to all practitioners performing non-surgical cosmetic procedures, excluding those who are already subject to the MBA’s Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures. 

Proposed new advertising guidelines for all registered health practitioners include clearer rules on the use of influencers and social media figures, as well as a focus on before and after images, claims about experience and qualifications, and reinforcement of the existing ban on the use of testimonials. 

An Ahpra audit earlier this year found two-thirds of dental practitioners were advertising online and via social media, with almost one in five appearing to breach at least one aspect of the current advertising guidelines. 

Potential breaches included the false and misleading use of specialist titles, such as specialising in cosmetic dentistry, and the use of promotions and specials without terms and conditions. 

“Further and more extensive audits will be undertaken in the future, so all practitioners need to be aware of their responsibilities in marketing as well as patient care,” Dr Thomas said. 

“National Boards, including the DBA, are developing additional resources to help practitioners meet their obligations when performing cosmetic procedures, and practitioners are encouraged to use the self-assessment tool on Ahpra’s advertising hub to ensure their advertising complies with the National Law.” 

The Boards are also urging patients to consider these key questions to help them when considering any cosmetic procedure, including: 

  • Why do I want to have the procedure? 
  • Have I received clear information about the risks? 
  • Am I willing to accept the risk that I may be unhappy with the outcome? 
  • Do I understand what this will cost me, including the costs of ongoing care? 
  • Has the practitioner explained the procedure, and do I understand it? 
  • Should I seek a second opinion? 
  • Have I discussed this with my usual treating practitioner? 
  • Is this procedure an irreversible and lifelong change that will require ongoing care, maintenance, and possible replacement, incurring additional future costs? 
  • What are the realistic expectations I can have for this procedure, and what are the alternatives? 
  • Do I need to be referred to a specialist health practitioner for any part of my treatment? 
  • Do I need time to think about this process before I commit to what may be a lifelong change?