Sir, I would like to bring readers' attention to a flyer received by one of my colleagues in the post recently. It advertises an oral surgery cadaver course and includes graphic images of sectioned/extracted teeth, coagulum and exposed bone.
Images like these are commonplace in any oral surgery or maxillofacial conference but what concerns me is the exposure of the layperson to these images, the mail carrier delivering the flyer and my colleague's young family. Within the UK, 36% of the population are dental phobic with 12% suffering from severe dental anxiety.1 Images such as those published in the flyer will likely cause distress to the general public. They also break the code of conduct set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).*
Gruesome images depicting oral surgery will do nothing to change the public's opinion on dentistry. In fact, it may undo some of the hard work by the dental community to alleviate patient fears. I encourage marketing teams to take greater care in publishing explicit content and consider the wider implications of their actions. If any concerns are raised regarding the nature of an image, the ASA provide a free advice service to ensure the content of an advertisement abides by their code of conduct. I encourage all dental practitioners to report any advertisements which may offend the public and safeguard the very people we are trying to serve.
*ASA Code 4:
4.1 Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.
Hill K B, Chadwick B, Freeman R, O'Sullivan I, Murray J J. Adult Dental Health Survey 2009: relationships between dental attendance patterns, oral health behaviour and the current barriers to dental care. Br Dent J 2013; 214: 25-32.
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Jones, D., Williams, J. Oral surgery over breakfast. Br Dent J 232, 589 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-022-4259-x