BREAKING BAD – MY DENTAL ADVERTISING COMPLIANCE SHOCK
As the proud owner of a newly acquired MGDS qualification, I eagerly released a great swathe of promotional practice leaflets throughout my local area declaring myself, ‘the best qualified dentist in Harrow’. Which was true.
But it was not long before I received a letter from the General Dental Council (GDC) asking me to cease and desist. My marketing initiative had infringed their directive, ‘Do not compare your skills or qualifications to those of other dentists.
Do not do as I did, do as I say; before you write a single word for your website, review the General Dental Council (GDC) pdf on advertising guidance available at
Always ensure your content is legal, decent, truthful, honest, current and accurate.
Include your GDC registration number, your qualification(s) and country/ies from which they are derived, the name, geographic address, email address and telephone number of your dental service, the GDC’s address and contact details or a link to the GDC website, details of the practice complaints procedure and contact details for the relevant NHS (or equivalent) body or Dental Complaints Service (for private treatment) if patients are not satisfied and the date the website was last updated.
Use clear understandable language, backs claims with facts and provide balanced, factual information. Avoid ambiguous statements, statements or claims intended or likely to create unjustified expectations about achievable results and state whether your practice is NHS, mixed or wholly private.
Ensure product endorsements are from you only, specific to patient needs and verified by evidence, and that promotional offers are subject to a satisfactory patient medical history, assessment, suitability, explanation of all options and consent.
Highlight extra training taken to achieve competence in services offered beyond primary dental qualification scope and only use the title ‘Specialist’ or imply specialist status if you are registered on a GDC specialist list. Otherwise use the terms ‘special interest in…’, ‘experienced in…’ or ‘practice limited to…’ where this is the case regarding particular forms of treatment. Do not imply further qualifications by listing memberships or fellowships of professional associations, societies or honorary degrees in an abbreviated form. And, as I learnt to my chagrin, do not compare the skills or qualifications of dental professionals on your website with those of other dental professionals.
Of course, unlike myself back in the day, you probably realise that alongside prospective and current patients reading your website and promotional materials, there will be colleagues ready to complain to our governing body if you transgress these guidelines. In my case, the matter was resolved with a letter of apology to the GDC and a commitment never to repeat the misdemeanour. If you ever suffer a similar ‘teachable moment’ in your professional life, however, take comfort in knowing that a thoughtful communication of your amends can put things right.* And that it’s always easier to learn from other people’s mistakes, especially mine, going forward.
For all of us dentists and for our very patient patients who read what we write and need what we offer, I remain, writing for dentists, at your service.
P.S. For more exclusive writing wit and wisdom and a free copy of my e-booklet ‘WRITE YOUR OWN WEBSITE’ sent directly to your email address (which will not be shared or used for any other purpose), contact me: http://www.writingfordentists.co.uk/contact.html
*P.P.S. Call me if you need help with this – I have relevant experience.