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What else can you get in pasar malam now?

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A lot of people still go to 'roadside dentists' for cheaper dental treatments. Photo by Ravin Rau - Unsplash

By: Dr. Cheah Chia Wei

In this day and age, we would think that people would go to a certified dentist to get the dental treatment required. But to our surprise, we still see patients who walk into our practice, asking us to save their teeth after visiting a “roadside dentist”. Most of the complaints are pain and discomfort, cannot remove the “denture” for cleaning, sensitivity, gum swelling post “dental treatment”. When we probe further, these so called “dental treatment” were received on a plastic chair in a pasar malam setup.

Dr. Cheah Chia Wei

These are some of the reasons people opted to see the “road side dentists”. They can provide instant tooth replacement. Their charges are really cheap. They can give you the treatment you want and no questions will be asked.

Most of these illegal “dental practitioners” look for their victims in the pasar malam where enforcement officers are off-duty. They move from area to area, the victims can never track them down to ask for a refund when things go wrong.

Is it ok to have this quick fix?

First of all, the equipment they used are not properly sterilized. The infection can be passed among the “customers” through saliva and blood contamination. Secondly, nobody knows whether the material they use is safe to be used inside the mouth. For example, the materials (polymer powder and monomer solution) are toxic in their individual form and become stabilized after going through proper processing procedures. Only then it will be safe to use by the wearers. What the “roadside dentists” normally do is they will put the material directly into the mouth and carve out the tooth shape while the material hardens inside the mouth. Ultimately, this material will get stuck around the teeth, the users not able to clean it properly and the other teeth inside the mouth will get affected. When food get stuck, bacteria flourish on the wounded gums and feast on the food debris, problems like gum swelling, and tooth decay will happen.

Don’t feel offended when dentists ask about your health status. It is necessary to protect you because some of the medical conditions and medication taken have potential risks when dental procedures are being provided. People taking anti-platelets have the risk of prolonged bleeding from the gums. With this information in mind, the dentist will be able to take precautions and able to avoid unnecessary mishaps.

Dentists will try their best to provide the best treatment based on your concerns. However, the sequence of treatment must be based on scientific evidence and also take into consideration to build a strong foundation for the restoration to be successful in the long run. For example, a person wants to have braces to correct the gaps at the anterior portion. However, if the dentist has detected this person to have serious gums disease where one of the symptoms is teeth moving apart, then this gums condition needs to be controlled first before embarking on braces treatment. If the dentist explains this to the client and the client understands the importance of the proposed treatment sequence, then this will be a lifelong dentist-patient partnership.

The practice of “roadside dentists” will only stop if no more demand from the consumers. Your mouth is the gateway to your health. So if you need dental treatment, please visit the registered dentists instead of going to the pasar malam for a quick fix from the “roadside dentists”. Be a wise consumer. You can also help by reporting them to the Malaysian Dental Council. If the practice of dentistry does not fulfill all the criterias under the Act 586, it will be deemed as the practice of illegal dentistry under section 4(1) of Act 586, and if a person is found guilty, carries a maximum fine of RM300,000 or jail term not exceeding six years or both.

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The author is a Consultant Periodontist and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at chiawei@um.edu.my

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