The pitfalls of mail-order dentistry

Sir, – I read Fiona Gartland’s article “Mail-order dentistry at root of number of complaints” (July 19th) with concern but little surprise. The idea of mail-order dentistry reliably providing effective and safe treatment is, as noted, undermined by the fact that dentistry is fairly complicated and demands skills and equipment not easily acquired.

An undergraduate dental student will take many attempts to get good at taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, and an experienced dentist will often want to retake an impression that isn’t satisfactory, yet the system described expects a member of the public to take an impression of their own teeth that is clinically useful.

Orthodontic treatment is like any other form of medical or surgical treatment and it comes in a sequence after clinical examination, special investigations (such as X-rays), diagnosis and then treatment planning.

While it might seem speedier and cheaper to leave out the first few stages, they are the ones where an appropriately qualified dentist can learn if a patient has problems that will be made worse by orthodontic treatment (such as undiagnosed gum disease), or unseen problems that will interfere with the orthodontic treatment (such as unerupted extra teeth) or if the orthodontic complaint is related to a more serious underlying condition (such as cancer or bone disorders).

Finally, as your article points out, Dental Complaints Resolution Service deals with dentists, and the Dental Council of Ireland can only regulate people registered with them, so getting dental treatment from a mail order company leaves the patient (I can’t seriously use the word “customer”) with as much options for redress as buying shoes via mail order. A list of registered specialist orthodontists can be downloaded from the Dental Council website. – Yours, etc,



Orthodontic Society of Ireland,

Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4.