The Honest Dentist - Advertising in Dentistry in Ireland
Yesterday, I was talking about advertising salads and today I thought I'd briefly compare that to Advertising in Dentistry, in Ireland at least.
I guess both sets of adverts are subject to the regulation by Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, but dentists are also regulated by The Dental Council of Ireland for most aspects of what they do - even extending beyond dentistry.
Up until fairly recently, advertising wasn't done by dentists. It was only starting to be permitted in the UK around the time I qualified, and I think in Ireland it was more recent than that. This is generally traced back to a report by the competition authority which recommended more competition in dentistry to reduce prices for patients.
At the time, the older dentists of my acquaintance were acting like this was a disgraceful undermining of the dignity of the profession, the fall from Eden. As a younger dentist, particularly one who has moved country a few times and doesn't have a network of of social or professional connections in the area when I came here, I can see the benefit of it.
A few years ago though, I was at a lecture by a very eminent thinker in orthodontists (who is paid by a university, he doesn't make an income from directly treating patients) who felt that allowing dentists to advertise was one of the worst things that happened to the profession. Decades later, I've not exactly come full circle, but I'm around the wheel enough to see his point.
The nature of a profession is that it has to responsibly use knowledge that the general public don't have. The fact that the general public doesn't have this knowledge makes it difficult for them to make a decision based on some things they can read or see in an advert.
Nowadays I will rarely open my newspaper at lunch without seeing an advert for a dental practice, sometimes they are even at the cinema or on TV, and of course when I'm on the web the adverts seek me out. Within the profession then, there is a need to maintain the standard of the dentistry, and so the Dental Council has a few requirements for us, because it doesn't expect the public to be able to know when the advert isn't accurately reflecting the truth.
This is just a simplified list.
- Adverts by dentists need to be legal, decent, and honest.
- There can't be any use of titles or qualifications that the dentists don't actually have listed in the Dental Register. For instance, it's not appropriate to use the term "specialist" or even "orthodontist" if a dentist isn't actually listed on the orthodontic register.
- If there are photographs of patients or teeth before or after treatment, then the advert needs to make it clear if they weren't treated by the dentists in the practice advertised. (This often happens with a cheerful model, probably American, that seems to have been treated in dozens of different places. You can make a copy of the image, paste it into google and see how many other places across the world it looks like the same guy was treated).
- Similarly, if the advert contains a testimonial (eg where a patient talks about their treatment) it has to be a real patient treated at the practice and talking about treatment they actually received. The advert also has to be clear if the patient was paid to say this.
- If an advert is an "advertorial", where it looks like the normal content in the newspaper or whatever media it's in, then it needs to be clear that it has been paid for.
- If a dentist is advertising something else (eg toothpaste) then they aren't meant to have their own practice linked to it.
Practice websites aren't exactly advertising, but there are a variety of rules we have to obey here too.
The full details for dentist and adverts and their public relations and communications in general is here:
(you can cut and paste this into a browser, or google the terms, this is not a live link)