Amid strong protests from medical experts, the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association has dismissed a cosmetic dentistry committee it established late last month.
The decision followed a debate between the medical and beauty sectors over the legality of cosmetic dentistry procedures in hairdressing parlors.
At the end of July, the association set up a cosmetic dentistry subcommittee, saying it would provide more development opportunities for that part of the beauty industry.
The move sparked strong opposition from the medical sector.
On Aug 1, the China Stomatological Association released a statement saying that it firmly opposed the establishment of the committee. It said medical dental treatment is a very rigorous discipline that can only be performed by doctors with the necessary medical qualifications at registered medical institutions.
It said the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association was a social organization of cosmetic professionals, and it warned that "people without medical qualifications performing such operations will result in chaos and harm people's oral health."
Driven by profits, some Chinese cosmetic institutions have, in recent years, begun to operate "nonmedical cosmetic dentistry" businesses. But the China Stomatological Association said there was no such thing as "nonmedical cosmetic dentistry", as any operation on teeth must be based on biomedical sciences and conducted at qualified medical institutions.
"We strongly oppose such illegal activities and solemnly demand the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association immediately dismiss its cosmetic dentistry committee," it said, adding that government authorities should tighten supervision over such practices.
Amid pressure, the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association said on Wednesday that it had decided to dismiss the newly established committee after checking related documents issued by the Ministry of Health, such as the latest regulation on medical beauty project management.
However, many people without formal medical training are still offering cosmetic dentistry services.
When a China Daily reporter contacted the Hemu Meiya dental care workshop in Beijing's Chaoyang district, a man who claimed to be a cosmetic dentist said that while he didn't have a medical certificate, he had learned skills from his father, a dentist, and had six years of working experience.
"I am even better skilled than my father," he said.
The workshop offered different services, such as dental veneers and composite resin bonding, to improve the appearance of teeth, he said. The most expensive kind, Tetric N-Ceram, was said to be a dental restorative operation using the best material.
"Technically, it may slightly harm the teeth, but you won't see it," he said.
Due to the cheaper prices of such services and insufficient knowledge of the dental care sector, many people are buying such services, as they nowadays care more about how they look.
One customer gave Hemu Meiya a five-star rating, the highest rank, on Dazhong Dianping, a Chinese customer review app.
"I chose the Italian resin bonding that Doctor Li introduced to me. I have consulted other hospitals and they charge 3,000 yuan ($462) for a single tooth. The price of this workshop is reasonable. Doctor Li was quick and neat, and he finished six teeth in about an hour or so. The project did no harm to my teeth," the customer said, strongly recommending the workshop to others.
The workshop's price list shows that regular composite resin bonding for one tooth costs 299 yuan.
Ding Peng, a private dental care branch committee member at the China Stomatological Association who previously worked at Peking University Hospital of Stomatology, said medical cosmetic dentistry has high standards and strict requirements for the equipment and materials that are used.
As a result, it usually costs 3,000 to 4,000 yuan, sometimes even up to 10,000 yuan, to do cosmetic dentistry on one tooth at a stomatology hospital or qualified dental care clinic, he said. The treatment takes at least an hour for a single tooth using 3D printing technology and could take as long as two to three weeks if traditional methods were used.
"The cosmetic dentistry at qualified dental care clinics prioritizes oral health and puts function before beauty during medical practice," he said, adding that unqualified materials and nonstandard operations will harm oral health, hurt gums and trigger periodontal diseases.
Ding said that many people are only willing to pay for a particular material-rather than invisible techniques and dentists' efforts-which offers room for cheaper cosmetic dentistry in the beauty industry. But when a person's oral health is harmed, it might be too late and more expensive to fix the problem.
Ding, who now works at Pretty-Smile Dental in downtown Beijing, also called for qualified private dental institutions to offer better services and share more knowledge with the public to squeeze out illegal or irregular commercial operations in cosmetic dentistry.