The BDA has expressed concern about what amounts to entrapment of individual practitioners by the GDC, following revelations the regulator has spent over £17,000 a year on private investigators who have posed as patients' families.
Figures indicate that between 2017 and 2018, the GDC paid £17,064.85 to private detective agency 'Invicta Investigation' to 'investigate complaints or information received in respect of a registrant's fitness to practise.'
Dentist leaders say the regulator needs to focus on proportionate action to combat the growing threat of illegal tooth whitening providers, and the increasing popularity of remote orthodontics, where braces are provided via websites without a face to face consultation with an appropriately qualified dentist. Both carry health risks for patients.
British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said: "When illegal tooth whitening is running rampant, and braces are being flogged via websites, the GDC should be using tactics like mystery shoppers to protect patients.
"Entrapment is entirely another matter. These sort of Stasi tactics are not a good look for a professional regulator that lists its values as 'fairness, transparency, responsiveness and respect."
A spokesperson for the General Dental Council said: “In order to fulfil its statutory function, namely the protection of the public, the GDC investigates complaints or information received in respect of a registrant’s fitness to practise. There are a number of methods open to us in pursuit of this, including the use of external investigators, however this approach is one that is used in exceptional circumstances.
“The GDC has a legal duty to investigate fitness to practise concerns and where we are unable to rely on evidence from an informant – for example where information which represents a potential danger to the public is sent to us anonymously – and where no alternate route is open, this is an option we may exercise.”