The terrible ‘tooth’ of fake dentists

Beauty and the beast: The facade of a beauty salon which also offers dentistry courses.

PETALING JAYA: Damaged teeth, tooth loss, swollen gums and even paralysis – these are just some of the symptoms people suffer after botched work by quacks offering quick and cheap fixes.

These illegal dentists can be found almost everywhere – in beauty parlours, hair salons, day and night markets and even on the sidewalk.

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Some even provide house-to-house services.

The Health Ministry has seen complaints from affected customers almost triple from 54 in 2017 to 130 in 2019. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the few affected ones who have come forward to lodge reports.

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Most just try to get a real dentist to sort out the problem. And that could be costly if done in the private sector.

A dentist who spoke to The Star said registered clinics had come across at least 30 cases involving brace placement by illegal practitioners in four years.

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The Star’s revelation on the abundance of illegal and unqualified “dentists” who received “certification” from beauty centres yesterday has raised concerns even among those in the medical fraternity who have seen the effects of the botched work by these practitioners.

These include swollen gums, tooth loss and paralysis.


The Health Ministry’s Oral Health principal director Dr Noormi Othman said professional dentists not only examine patients’ teeth, but also understand the human anatomy – the blood vessels, and muscles that interconnect.

“Any improper treatment can cause the patient to suffer consequences such as swelling, pain, nerve paralysis and infection.

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“These bogus dentists usually use unsterilised equipment that may lead to the transmission of diseases like HIV, Covid-19 or Hepatitis B.

“Proper infection control is not a priority because they only think about profits,” she said adding that some of those arrested claimed their customers were not bothered by issues of hygiene, as long as they got what they wanted.

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Dr Iqbal Rosali, a member of the Medical Mythbusters Malaysia (dental) said illegal practitioners would normally only provide “cosmetic” treatments and not treat a patient’s actual condition.

“If a patient comes to us, we will check the condition of his mouth and teeth, and solve whatever issues that can lead to further complications.

“These are the things these illegal practitioners cannot do. For example, they will conceal broken teeth with veneer.

“That only leads to other complications such as swollen gums and premature loss of teeth,” Dr Iqbal said.

A dentist who wished to be known as Dr Anis said her clinic had attended to no less than 30 cases involving mostly students who had their braces fixed by quack dentists.

“They see it as a fashion (statement), but what they don’t think about is how it would affect their gums and teeth.

“Some of them had teeth that looked fine but at the end of the day, the condition of their teeth became bad,” she said.

The elderly, especially those in rural areas, are easy prey for quack dentists.

“We have had many elderly who came to us because they felt pain after wearing dentures for about two to three years.

“This happens because the dentures cannot be removed, hence these people can’t clean their gums. This then leads to infections,” she said.

A dentist, who wished to be known as Dr MJ, said he had a patient who had “mentos or toilet white” teeth after a quack fixed their dental veneer.

“The patient paid a lot for the veneer. Unfortunately, we had to remove everything because it was not fixed properly.

“Not only were her teeth damaged, her gums were swollen, too,” he said.

Some also reportedly used fake acrylic fingernails on the patient’s teeth for a whitening effect.

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