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Dental Act to get filling - New rules should offer more protection from quacks

Published:Friday | October 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Students from the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in the United States working to fill the tooth of a young lady during an outreach programme in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

In the wake of The Sunday Gleaner's report that the Dental Council of Jamaica has little power to move against dentists operating without valid practising certificates, the island's chief dental officer has conceded that the 41-year-old Dental Act is in need of an upgrade.

Dr Irving McKenzie last week told our news team that the Dental Act and supporting regulation need to be modified to facilitate improvements to professional services, regulatory mechanisms, and the training of all categories of dental professionals.

"Aspects of the Dental Act are definitely in need of amendment, but there is a process that has to be followed," said McKenzie, the longest-sitting member of the Dental Council.

"Currently, the act is on the legislative agenda for this legislative year 2015-2016," added McKenzie.




Some areas that the new act will address are the prevention of the illegal practice of dentistry, international cooperation in the field of dentistry, the training of all categories of dental professionals locally, and the constitution and selection of individuals to sit on the council.

"Some persons may be a bit anxious as to why it is taking so long. It is not taking long ... things like natural justice have to be taken into consideration to make sure that we are not setting up any cartels," said McKenzie.

"We have to make sure there is no unfair advantage for any individual, make sure the society is well protected, and also make sure that it is properly crossed-referenced with other pieces of legislation that are there.

"And there were also other legislation that were on the Government of Jamaica's legislative agenda."

The amended act is also expected to address how to advertise as a dentist and the practice of dentistry by a medical practitioner.

"We are also looking at research, something we have never thought of before. Somebody coming to Jamaica and want to research live subjects and it is dental-related, or somebody say they are going to test this florid tablet to see how it works on the natives; we want to be able to weigh in on that kind of thing. We will also be looking at simple things such as continuing education practices."

Another issue that the council is to tackle urgently is the mechanism for keeping a record of dentists currently practising locally.

At present, the council has a big book, the Registry of Dentists, which contains the names of all dentists ever licensed to practise locally, whether dead or alive.

But according to McKenzie, going forward, the council will be depending on dentists renewing their practising certificates biennially to keep track of those dentists practising legally.

"The beauty of the practising certificate is that it assures currency. But regulatory framework will be used to determine the conditions under which a person can get a new practising certificate."