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Quality of Dental Services Varies Seek Reputable Service Providers to Avoid Distress Be Mindful of Details when Using Dental Services in the Mainland to Protect Consumer Rights

  • 2024.06.17

As many would agree that “there are few ailments quite as excruciating as a toothache”, yet a straight, healthy set of pearly whites requires timely treatment of dental problems in addition to daily care. With an ageing population, there is immense local demand for dental services, and while a wide range of treatments is available, some are very expensive, and some consumers may choose to pay more modest fees by going north across the boundary for dental visits.

Every so often the Consumer Council receives complaints about dental services, such as being arranged for treatments in Shenzhen for orthodontic services purchased in Hong Kong, failure to eradicate pain from mispositioned implants despite over 30 follow-up consultations, and loose dentures for the elderly after repeated adjustments, etc. The Council urges the industry to exercise stringent control over professional standards and quality of treatments. At the same time, the industry should avoid overselling, which may result in failure to provide timely treatments thus delaying consumers’ access to services, or declining service quality due to insufficient consultation and treatment time allocated. Consumers should also be mindful that as dental services are professional medical procedures, they should scrutinise the professional qualifications and reputation of dentists instead of purely considering the price. Consumers should never patronise unregistered dentists, as not only could it damage their teeth, but also make it difficult to seek redress if problems arise. In addition, the regulatory system of dental services in the Mainland is different from that of Hong Kong. One should thoroughly check the details of services and exercise judgement prudently before choosing to receive services in the Mainland.

Case 1: Teeth Reshaping Arranged in the Mainland for Locally Purchased Orthodontics Programme  Refund Request Denied

The complainant signed up for an orthodontics programme from the self-owned dental centre of Trader A at cost of about $23,000, which included 18 sets of aligners and required a teeth reshaping procedure prior to the treatment. The complainant was later informed by Trader A that no slots were available in their local clinic for teeth reshaping and was directed to a clinic in Shenzhen for the procedure. The complainant initially asked for a refund but was persuaded by Trader A to accept teeth reshaping at the Shenzhen clinic. After the treatment had started, the complainant found the 8th set of aligners did not fit snugly, so he complained to Trader A and once again demanded a refund. Trader A refused to refund and instead suggested an alternative programme, but the complainant firmly insisted on a refund for the remaining sets of aligners and retainer since the expected results of the new plan were far from the original. As the staff of Trader A insisted no refund would be made once the treatment had started, the complainant eventually chose to lodge a complaint with the Council.

After repeated interventions and conciliation by the Council, Trader A eventually reached a settlement with the complainant and agreed to refund around $8,000 and terminate the treatment.

Case 2: Dental Implants Mispositioned
No Improvement Despite Over 30 Treatments

The complainant went to Dental Clinic B for dental implants and root canal treatments respectively at a total cost of $38,000. About 2 years later, the complainant experienced toothaches and inflammations, so she returned to the same clinic for treatment. However, the problems persisted even after 32 follow-ups and treatments. The complainant then visited another clinic, and after examination the dentist explained that since the shape of the fixture could be clearly seen from the edge of the gums, the diagnosis was that Clinic B had mispositioned the implants and failed to fix them to the jawbone correctly, which in turn caused the pain and inflammation. Opining that the treatments of Clinic B were ineffective while seriously affecting work and daily life, the complainant questioned their professionalism and filed a complaint with Clinic B but did not receive a reasonable solution. The complainant subsequently lodged a complaint with the Dental Council of Hong Kong (DCHK) and simultaneously sought assistance from the Consumer Council on the issue of refund.

After intervention and conciliation by the Council, Clinic B offered a refund of around $10,000 after deducting costs. The complainant did not accept this proposal, pointing out that she had to pay extra for treating these dental problems elsewhere. In the end, Clinic B offered a refund of $15,000 which the complainant accepted.

Case 3: Nonagenarian Provided with Oversized Dentures
Persistent Pain Despite Repeated Adjustments

The complainant who was over 90 years old patronised Dental Centre C for customised dentures. The $7,000 treatment included dental moulds, temporary maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) dentures. The Centre also requested the complainant to prepay another $7,000 for the permanent sets. When trying on the moulds, the complainant immediately reported to his dentist that the maxillary set was too big for him to close his mouth, but the temporary maxillary set he subsequently received was still too big. Even after repeated reshaping and adjustments by the Centre, the denture was still ill-fitting and had to be fixed in place with glue, and caused redness, swelling, and pain to the complainant’s palate. As the complainant was wheelchair-bound and found it difficult to return to the Centre repeatedly for treatments, combined with losing confidence in the dentist, he sought assistance from the Council and requested the Centre to refund the cost of both the temporary and permanent maxillary dentures.

Dental Centre C explained to the Council that the complainant had 10 teeth removed 1 month before the dentures were made, and that the alveolar ridge needs to go through a period of contraction of 3 to 6 months before stabilising, thus it was normal to feel temporary dentures being loose during that period. They also advised the complainant to wait until his alveolar ridges were stable before being fitted with permanent dentures. The Centre only offered to refund $3,500 initially, but after repeated conciliation by the Council, they finally agreed to refund the paid $7,000 to the complainant and the case was resolved.

Dental services involve professional medical procedures. In case of any problems with treatments, not only would it cost the consumer money and time, but may also cause constant pain which affects daily life and even permanent damage to the teeth. As such, the Council advises consumers to consider not only price when seeking dental services, but also the reputation of the dentist and treatment plan proposals, and to pay heed to the following:

  • Only patronise registered dentists. A list of locally registered dentists can be found on the website of the DCHK. The DCHK registers and regulates dentists and dental hygienists in accordance with the law. Consumers can also lodge complaints with the DCHK if breach of professional ethics is suspected;
  • When choosing local services, carefully consider the expertise and reputation of dentists with reference to own experiences and that of friends and relatives. After selecting a dentist, proactively enquire about treatment procedures and relevant fees, pay attention to whether consultations, X-ray, and medication are separately charged, and confirm whether there are further additional charges. Also keep all receipts and records as evidence after treatment;
  • Consumers who choose to receive services in the Mainland should be aware that the regulatory system differs from that in Hong Kong, but dentistry in the Mainland is stringently governed by the health commissions/departments at national, provincial and regional levels. In case of incidents or disputes, consumers may file a complaint with health administrative bodies in the Mainland accordingly;
  • To safeguard dental health, consumers should develop good dental care habits: apart from daily oral cleansing, also visit dentists regularly for scaling and check-ups, while problems such as cavities or periodontal diseases should be addressed as early as possible upon detection.


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