How well do you know your supply chain?

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    The growth of sophisticated counterfeit dental equipment is becoming an increasing concern for the dental industry; aided by the ease of online selling, unscrupulous vendors could be trying to catch you out.

    The recent GDC fitness-to-practise hearing concerning the use of counterfeit dental devices highlighted the associated dangers, not only to patients and users, but also to dental professionals by putting their registration in jeopardy. The hearing also reinforced and emphasised the need to exercise common sense and care when purchasing dental equipment and to have adequate systems and appropriate checks in place to ensure that equipment is compliant and safe to use.

    The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seize tens of thousands of non-compliant and counterfeit devices every year, largely on sale over the internet. In fact, between April 2014 and October 2015 the MHRA closed 138 websites doing just that, vastly undercutting the prices of genuine manufacturers and their products. As long ago as October 2014 the MHRA stated that they had seized, 'over 12,000 different pieces of poor quality dental equipment imported into the UK from China and Pakistan and sold on auction websites such as eBay, Amazon and Alibaba.'1 Seizures have included fake handpieces which could disintegrate, curing lights that are ineffectual, handheld X-ray machines which can emit dangerous levels of radiation, as well as fake burs, endodontic probes, impression materials, amalgamators, air prophy units, intra-oral cameras and syringes.

    To tackle this, the British Dental Industry Association (BDIA) operates its Counterfeit and Sub-standard Instruments and Devices Initiative (CSIDI) to promote awareness of the dangers of counterfeit and illegal dental instruments and devices, to provide a quick and simple method of reporting incidents at and to recommend purchasing only from reputable manufacturers and suppliers.

    To mitigate or eliminate the risk of counterfeit and non-compliant devices at the purchasing stage, the BDIA recommends that all purchases, however small, are made from a reputable supplier. The advertised price of a product is a strong indication of its authenticity. Reputable manufacturers invest heavily in research and development, training, and high quality materials, an outlay which is reflected in the price. A deal which vastly undercuts the usual retail price should be treated with caution.

    When purchasing dental equipment, there are a number of questions the purchaser can ask to help minimise their risk:

    • Is the price drastically out of line with the normal price?

    • Will the purchase be online or from a supplier that you don't know?

    • If possible, before use, compare it with a similar product you know to be genuine; does it look and feel the same?

    • Check the company name, product name and logo – are they exactly as they should be?

    • Is the colour and design of the packaging exactly like the genuine product?

    • Look at any charging/power plug, has it been supplied with a UK plug?

    • Look at the CE mark, can you be sure it is genuine?*

    If in any doubt, contact the manufacturer. Genuine products can be tracked back through the supply chain to confirm authenticity.

    Dental Showcase 2016 at ExCeL London 6-8 October is a great opportunity to meet reputable suppliers and BDIA members in person. Get to know the companies and reps you are doing business with, and ensure you make purchases through a legitimate supply chain. While visiting Dental Showcase you can see and touch instruments and devices, view demonstrations and take advantage of genuine show offers and discounts. You can also visit the CSIDI stand (O78) at Dental Showcase and take part in the challenging 'Spot the Fake' competition, where identifying the real from the counterfeit instruments and devices may not be as easy as it seems! All entries will be submitted into a prize draw to win a £500 voucher to spend with a BDIA member company.

    New features of this year's Dental Showcase include:

    • The Go Digital! initiative – take a look at the transformational technology in this area of dentistry, as well as seeing live demonstrations from some of the best technologists in the business

    • Two additional educational theatres, and the extension of our seminar programme with a broader range of the industry's best speakers covering interesting and educational topics

    • A meeting and networking zone where you can get together with your peers and colleagues, or make new connections.

    Offering something for every member of the dental team to enjoy, other show highlights include: discovering the latest innovations in dentistry; visiting over 350 industry-leading stands; seeing a vast array of new and innovative products on display; attending an extensive programme of lectures; getting exclusive show offers; gaining verifiable CPD, and networking with your colleagues and peers! Get your free ticket now at

    *The Notified Body (NB) can be contacted to confirm compliance if there is any doubt. (A list of EU NBs is available on the BDIA counterfeits website.)


    1. 1

      MHRA Press Release. 'Regulator warns dentists about the dangers of buying and using counterfeit and unapproved dental equipment.' 17 October 2014.

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    How well do you know your supply chain?. Br Dent J 221, 145 (2016).

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