UK-wide dental defence organisation MDDUS is advising every practice to check their website includes all relevant and up-to-date information as detailed in the GDC's Principles of Ethical Advertising.
Under the new rules, practice websites must include a range of information including the dentist's professional qualification and GDC number, the GDC's address and contact details, details of the practice's complaints procedure and the date the website was last updated.
MDDUS welcomes the clarity of the GDC's website criteria – which came into force on 1 March – in an age where an increasing amount of information is accessed via the web.
The use of a website can help a dental practice communicate with and inform their patients and the new guidance aims to ensure all practice websites are accurate and do not display misleading information, in line with European regulation.
MDDUS dental adviser Rachael Bell believes the guidance benefits both patients and dentists. She says: 'While a website is no substitute for face-to-face contact with patients, the new guidance will help patients as it ensures they are given clear and accurate information that is easy to access.
'For dentists, a website is a useful tool to communicate with their patients as information is now so readily available online and patients are ever more internet literate. Websites can also be a great marketing tool, but exactly what is being offered and to whom needs to be clear and accurate if dentists are to keep themselves in line with the GDC's guidance.
'Most practices that have websites will already have most of the information that the GDC are asking them to display but it would be beneficial for practices to re-check their websites in light of the new guidance.
'If dental practices are exploring setting up their own website they will now know from the GDC what information must be included.'
The guidance asks for a dentist's registration number to be clearly displayed as well as their professional qualification and the country from which that qualification is derived.
Other information that must be displayed is the name and address of the practice, contact details including an email address and the GDC's address or a link to their website. There also needs to be a section giving details of the practice complaints procedure which should include details of who patients can contact if they are not satisfied with the response.
The guidance also states a dental practice website must not display information comparing skills or qualifications with other dental professionals and that all information on the website is updated so it reflects the personnel at the practice and the service offered.
'If a dental practice has a website, it is imperative they keep it as up-to-date as possible as patients have a right to assume all information on the website is accurate,' adds Rachael.
As well as websites, the guidance covers advertising services, the use of specialist titles and states all information or publicity material regarding dental services should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.