Michael Watson reviews the latest advice about the danger of counterfeit dental equipment

shutterstock_12950872The expression ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ probably goes back 500 years or more, when the phrase ‘Too good to be true’ entered the English language.

So why was it necessary last week for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to warn dentists about the potential danger of buying and using counterfeit and unapproved dental equipment?

The MHRA is concerned about the growing range of dental equipment that is being advertised to dentists at cheap prices, both online and at dental trade fairs in China.

Its warning followed the seizure of over 12,000 different pieces of poor quality dental equipment imported into the UK from China and Pakistan and sold on auction websites such as eBay, Amazon and Alibaba in the past six months.

The items the MHRA has seized include:

  • Dental X-ray machines (24 seized) that emit high levels of radiation
  • Hand-piece drills (384 seized) that could malfunction and disintegrate inside patient’s mouths
  • More than 3,240 poor quality root canal files that could break.

Dentists, especially those in the private sector, expect their patients to recognise quality and be prepared to pay for it.

We expect patients to come to someone qualified and registered to have their teeth whitened and not be seduced by a cheap beauty salon.

Yet when it comes to choosing a laboratory or a dental supplier, then price, not quality, is king.

That’s business, I expect you say, and so it is.

After all, expenses have risen significantly in recent years, eating into practice profits.

But when it comes to buying dodgy equipment from unknown suppliers on the other side of the world, surely dentists have an obligation to put quality and safety above price.

As Alastair Jeffrey, the MHRA’s head of enforcement, said: ‘Dentists must source their dental equipment from reputable suppliers.

‘Purchasing from auction websites and being unable to verify the integrity of the seller has the potential to increase risks to patients and cause reputational damage to the dental profession.’

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