GDC issues guidance on ethical advertising

DENTISTS must ensure they do not use the title "specialist" in any promotional text unless registered on one of the 13 specialist lists maintained by the GDC.

This is just one of the provisions set out in new GDC guidance on ethical advertising published last week. Principles of ethical advertising covers all forms of promotion of services by dental professionals in print and on the internet.

In regard to specialist titles the guidance states:

"Only dentists who are on a GDC specialist list may use the title 'Specialist' or describe themselves as a 'specialist in….' Dentists who are not on a GDC specialist list should not use titles which may imply specialist status such as Orthodontist, Periodontist, Endodontist etc.

"Registrants who are not on a specialist list should not describe themselves as specialising in…' a particular form of treatment but may use the terms 'special interest in..', 'experienced in..' or 'practice limited to..'.

The guidance adds that no specialist lists exist for dental care professionals, and DCPs should avoid misleading patients by using titles such as 'Smile specialist' or 'Denture specialist'.

Dental professionals advertising services are required to feature their GDC registration number in all literature and online. Websites must also contain details of a dental practice’s complaints procedure and information on who patients may contact if they are not satisfied with the response – the relevant NHS body for NHS treatment and the Dental Complaints Service for private treatment.

The guidance makes clear that every dental professional has a responsibility to ensure that any promotional information containing their name, in print or online, is current and accurate. No specific mention is made in the guidance regarding the question of whether dentists should be allowed to use the term 'Dr' in their title.

Chair of the GDC, Kevin O’Brien said: "The duty of all dental professionals is to put their patients’ interests first. Related to advertising, this means never making claims which could mislead patients. This new guidance will help to ensure that patients’ basic right to clear, accurate information is protected and that dental professionals have helpful guidance to assist them with ethical advertising."

The new guidance will take effect from 1 March 2012.

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