Everyone knows the story by now. A young girl was caught operating as a dentist without a license when she tried to make a police report because some clients didn’t pay her, apparently.
The bogus dentist was reportedly earning RM6,000 a day for her services, charging patients RM650 for full braces, and RM350 for a partial fitting.
Her much-publicised case got us thinking: is it really that easy to set up as a fake dentist here in Malaysia?
After all, this has happened at least 3 times before in Malaysia, based on reports. And out of those, two of them learned the craft off YouTube.
Congratulations, now you’re qualified to do dentistry too!
Illegal dental practitioners has caused much concern for the Malaysian Health Ministry. Since 2015, a total of 46 reports had been made relating to illegal dental practitioners, with 18 cases brought to court. Some examples below:
1. 63-year-old “army dentist”
Way back in 2007, who people thought was a former army dentist was caught without a licence and arrested—after operating for 29 years.
He told his neighbours that he was a retired army dentist, and charged RM20 for extractions, and RM130 for dentures.
He was examining patients in a cast-off examining chair from the 1940s, and even did home visits. Apparently, he picked up on dentistry skills between 1962 to 1978 when he assisted an army dentist by carrying his bag during visits to plantation workers’ homes.
He watched the dentist diagnose and treat problems, and also observed how he would extract teeth and make models and measurements for dentures.
Over his 29 years in operation, he accrued quite a lot of equipment which was confiscated from the premises.
2. Nurul Nadzirah Mohd Saidi
In September last year, a 21-year-old woman, Nurul Nadzirah Mohd Saidi, was fined RM25,000 after pleading guilty in the Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court for offering illegal dental services out of a hotel room. Apparently, she mainly did tooth fillings or fixed dental braces. Predictably, she was charging much less than dentists not operated out of the back of a hotel.
Those hard-earned skills were apparently learned off YouTube, and also through friends, and she was getting a steady stream of customers when she got busted.
3. Mohamad Irwan Mohd Sudi
This 25-year-old from Kuantan also used YouTube videos, as well as dentistry magazines to learn what other spend six years to master.
And he was confident enough in his own skills to open his own clinic that did everything from tooth extractions, teeth scaling and braces, and other procedures.
Here’s the thing though: These four aren’t the first, and they certainly won’t be the last.
The real demon here is the rise of unlicensed dentists, or street dentists, going around putting their hands into people’s mouths and operating illegally. As it turns out, the rise of street dentists has been a real issue in Malaysia.
Between the ability to do home visits, shorter wait times and the ever-enticing prices, more and more Malaysians are opting for the cheaper, less safe option, sometimes even unaware that they’re illegal dentists.
Illegal dentists publicise their services either by word of mouth, business cards, flyers and posters. Besides operating out of hotel rooms or their own homes, apparently street dentists can even be seen doing treatments in streetside coffee shops, hidden areas, wet markets, and niches of a building.
The Malaysia Dental Association even released a statement regarding the matter, warning the public to take this seriously.
“Among the many negative impacts of seeking services from fake dentists include complications that are not only unmanageable by the fake dentists but rendering the disease even more complicated to treat, and may incur higher cost.”
“Infection control is often compromised and the risks of contracting a dangerous infection such HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and probably airborne diseases such as tuberculosis not only poses a threat to the patients but also to the fake dentists themselves,”
“They also do not need to set an appointment or wait their turn, but they ignore safety, cleanliness and the dentist’s capability in treating them,” said Dr. Neduchelian to Bernama in an interview.
The doctor added that controlling the situation of uncertified dentists will continue to be difficult as long as there’s public demand for it.
“Dental treatment is not a simple process as it requires detailed clinical procedures. The doctor will check the patient first to ensure he is suitable and really needs dental treatment so as to avoid any complications,” he said.
A teen girl who had her braces done in a motel room had all of her teeth glued together. The fake dentist she visited apparently left the composite material used to stick the brackets to the teeth in her mouth, and it took a proper dentist an hour to remove it. She also suffered a gum disease from the food trapped underneath.
Which dentists do I believe anymore?
The warning signs can be obvious: if they’re charging way below the normal asking price for certain procedures, you can make guesses why.
If they’re making their checks in hotel rooms or out of their home, there’s a possible reason why.
That being said, here’s how you check for sure:
- Go on this website and type in the name of your dentist, to check if they’re registered with the Ministry Of Health.
- The dentist should have an active Annual Practice Certificate for the current year displayed. If you can’t see it, patients may request to see it.
- Reasonable and clear dental charges.
- Clean equipment free of rust.
All in all, don’t forget that dentistry is a medical profession, and you’re risking a lot more than just some extra cash when you do anything to your teeth.
This is especially true with anything involving braces. Admittedly, going to a proper dentist can cost a bomb, which caused the rise of these fake dentists in the first place. That’s an issue that’s yet to be solved in Malaysia.
Feature Image Credit: Instagram and Getty Images