Laws to protect the public against unregistered and oftentimes underqualified dentists are now before the Finance and General Purposes Committee, after being sent by the Cabinet for urgent consideration.
And the Dental Board of Trinidad and Tobago (DBTT) is calling on Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh to bring laws to Parliament to help them fight a fresh wave of unregistered dentists, who many in the industry say are doing bad work at cheap prices.
The Trinidad and Tobago Dental Association (TTDA) has joined the call and recently put out a video on social media warning the public about “dental quacks,” as they refer to them, in the industry.
According to TTDA vice president Dr Shival Jankee, a “dental quack” is anyone who does not have a dental degree or is registered as a dentist. He said while some may be dental technicians, that only means they can deal in fabrications, meaning they cannot treat patients.
Jankee said the scary thing is where some of them learn the procedures.
“YouTube now covers a lot of things from A to Z on dentistry. Any type of procedure is there, so it’s easy for these unregistered people to watch these videos, pick up their tools and practice on people.”
Jankee said what makes them even more dangerous is that they are much cheaper to visit than a registered dentist, which makes them more attractive to those who are struggling financially.
He showed Guardian Media some Facebook advertisements where establishments were charging as little as $1,000 to install braces.
While advertising in itself is against their industry regulations, the TTDA executive said the cheap option often leads to complications.
“Before you put in braces, you have to make sure there is no gum disease or no cavities. It is detrimental if you don’t do this and right now, patients are coming in and we have to tell them we cannot save the damaged tooth because of botched treatments,” Jankee said.
He noted that given that these practitioners are unlicensed, there is very little one can do in terms of seeking redress.
“An unregistered dentist isn’t regulated by a control board, so they don’t have any sanitisation standards to adhere to, which is one of our major concerns in this pandemic.”
The dentists said Hepatitis and HIV can be easily transmitted if proper procedure isn’t followed when using equipment.
However, under current laws, what these practitioners are doing is technically not illegal.
“Anyone can set up shop, I can, you can, anyone,” said Dr Nathan Ali, TTDA treasurer.
It’s why the DBTT wants robust laws to deal with this. President Dr Dharmendra Rohit said this has been a problem for many years.
“The only way we can deal with it is legislative changes, because right now, if we have to persecute a ‘quack’, we need a patient to make a report to the police and that report comes like an assault and then the police has three months to investigate the matter but that may not be high on the officer’s agenda.”
Rohit said if the police do follow up, the DBTT must then apply to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for permission to take action. Rohit said amendments have been submitted to the Minister of Health to change that process.
“So if there is a ‘quack’ operating illegally, the council can now act immediately without having to go through the DPP office.”
Rohit said those amendments have been approved by the Attorney General’s Office and now they are waiting for the Dental Act to be amended in Parliament.
When Guardian Media contacted Deyalsingh on the matter, he said, “It’s before the F&GP Committee as sent by Cabinet for urgent consideration.”