Regulating The Profession

The above scenario led to the need to regulate the profession. The latter half of the 1920s saw a greater focus on regulating the practice of dentistry. The first Registration of Dentists' Ordinance of the Straits Settlements was enacted in 1924, while the Federated Malay States had a separate Registration of Dentists Enactment in 1931. However, the 1924 Ordinance was deficient in many aspects, and it was subsequently repealed in 1933 and a second version called the Ordinance for Registration of Dentists 1933 was passed. This legislation prohibited the practice of dentistry by unqualified practitioners and proved the death knell for the 'roadside dentists'.

Following the end of World War II (1941-1945), legislation in Malaya was further strengthened by the enactment of the Registration of Dentists' Ordinance in 1948. This legislation only allowed qualified persons to be admitted to the Dental Register. Qualified dental practitioners in the public and private sectors were registered under the category of Division I Dentists. However, there was a clause that allowed for admission of unqualified dentists already in practice, under a separate section, as Division II Registered Dentists. The condition set was that they should successfully complete an examination conducted by the Dental Board that was set up in the same year.

At that time, there were only 50 qualified dentists on the Register and 166 unqualified dentists. There are now 8,598 qualified private and public dental surgeons and 22 Division II dentists, who are registered with the Malaysian Dental Council as of 31 December 2017.

The enactment of the Dental Act 1971 by parliament gave much-awaited recognition to the profession and signaled the era of contemporary dentistry in Malaysia. The Malaysian Dental Council (MDC) was established under this Act as the executive body to regulate the profession. The Act elucidates features pertaining to the registration and issuance of practising certificates, maintenance of professional standards and enabling powers for the profession to discipline its own members. The registration of Division II dentists was closed in 1972.

The Dental Act 1971 has since undergone several amendments. One, in 1997, was to enlarge the Malaysian Dental Council membership from 20 to 24 members, and to strengthen penalties for offences under the Act. Another amendment was to address the acute shortage of dentists in the public sector. This led to the three-year national service for new registrants with effect from 29 June 2001. In 2012, the Malaysian Dental Council at its 97th Meeting on 29 February 2012 approved the reduction of the compulsory service duration from 3 to 2 years.  This came into effect on 5 April 2012. In 2015, a further reduction of the 2-year compulsory service to 1year was made, effective on 1 July 2015.

The Dental Act 2018 [Act 804] was given the Royal Assent on 19 June 2018 and published in the gazette on 26 June 2018. With the implementation of the Dental Act 2018, the Dental Act 1971 will be repealed. The Dental Act 2018 has far-reaching implications on the practice of dentistry; the most notable being the registration of dental therapists and their practice in the private sector, mandatory CPD and professional indemnity cover for renewal of the practising certificate and enforcement capabilities.

A roadshow to brief practitioners on the important details in the Dental Act 2018 was held in collaboration with the Malaysian Dental Association in all States (except Perlis and WP Labuan) from 20 July 2018 to 5 October 2018

A Legislation and Enforcement Unit was set up under the Oral Health Division in 2007. This unit worked with the Branch for Health in Private Medical Practice of the Medical Practice Division, to implement and enforce the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (PHFSA) and its Regulations. Dental officers were appointed as enforcement officers in all states, and at present there are 43 dental enforcement officers.

Since the enforcement of the PHFSA in 2006, a total of 2,753 dental clinics have been registered, and regular inspections are carried out in the 2,129 active registered dental clinics, to ensure on-going compliance. Numerous enforcement activities have also been carried out with 46 cases being brought to trial. Of these cases, 26 involved fake braces and 17 involved illegal dental practitioners.

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