Denture businesses treating patients in garden sheds

Dental technician body claims unregistered operators treat patients in dirty conditions

Homespun denture businesses are treating patients in dirty conditions and failing to adhere to basic hygiene precautions, according to the Clinical Dental Technicians’ Association. Photograph: Frank Miller

Homespun denture businesses are treating patients in dirty conditions and failing to adhere to basic hygiene precautions, according to the Clinical Dental Technicians’ Association. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Concerns have been raised about unregistered providers, some operating from garden sheds or kitchen tables, providing dentures despite claims patients’ health could be affected.

Regulatory authorities, who have been alerted to allegations of patients being treated in unhygienic conditions, say they cannot intervene because of gaps in Irish law and EU regulations.

Homespun denture businesses are treating patients in dirty conditions and failing to adhere to basic hygiene precautions, according to the Clinical Dental Technicians’ Association. It claims unregistered operators are free to operate due to inaction by regulatory bodies.

The group has this week sent “cease and desist” letters to over 20 operators it claims are flouting rules on the supply of dentures. It has vowed to seek injunctions against firms that do not comply.

Under law, the only people allowed to provide dentures directly to the public are dentists or trained clinical dental technicians. The Dentists Act 1985 provides for fines of up to €1,500 and a one-year jail term where the provider is not a registered member of either profession.

The Dental Council says it has taken action in the past but admits its powers to investigate illegal practice are limited “under the present legislation”. “For example, the council does not have the power to stop illegal practice or to have warranted officers investigate premises where illegal practice is suspected,” a spokesman explains.

Revised Dental Bill

The revised Dental Bill being prepared by the Department of Health should address many of the issues concerning the regulation of dental practices, he says.

The clinical dental technicians say they have made representations to the council as well as politicians, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), and consumer and advertising watchdogs without success.

Association chairman Philip McGrath says it has received reports of patients being treated by unregistered providers in “dirty, unhygienic” conditions and the treatment of one patient with an ungloved hand.

Mr McGrath believes the use of unregistered providers is putting people off regular check-ups where abnormalities, including oral cancers, could be detected.

The association has hired private investigators to obtain evidence on those providing dentures directly to the public. It has also gathered evidence by logging complaints from patients and gathering evidence from websites.

The HPRA, which regulates the manufacture of dental devices, says it has investigated the association’s complaints but is not aware of the illegal making of dentures “under current legislation”.

Under current rules, a prescription for a dental device such as dentures must be written by a medical practitioner “or other authorised person”.

However, there is no legal definition of an “authorised person” but forthcoming EU regulations on medical devices may help resolve the issue, the HPRA says.