More than 700 dodgy drills – which can break and shatter while in the mouth – have been seized but experts fear many more are out there
Thousands of dental patients are at risk of serious injury from “extremely dangerous” counterfeit drills produced in China. The cheap devices, being sold via the internet, can break and shatter while in the mouth – potentially causing horrific damage to the teeth and gums.
One of the counterfeit drills imported from China.
Experts said the “incredibly realistic” fake drills “look and feel just like the real thing”. And, worryingly, dentists may have no idea they are using the dodgy devices.
But the regulator said dental staff could be prosecuted if they knowingly bought equipment that put patients at risk.
More than 700 counterfeit drills have been seized in the past four years, but experts fear many more are out there.
Dental staff have been told it is vital they avoid the “seemingly cheap devices” and only buy from bona fide suppliers because of the enormous risk to patients.
The warning comes after a man became the first in the UK to be prosecuted by Britain’s medical devices watchdog for selling fake dental equipment.
Dilber Dilshad was convicted last month at Southwark crown court in South East London, due to illegal sale and supply of counterfeit drills. He was given a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £2,000. He was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.
Dilshad, 49, was snared by undercover investigators from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the medical devices watchdog.
The agency is responsible for making sure that dental equipment in the UK meets safety standards.
MHRA investigators launched a probe after the legitimate manufacturer of the fake drills that Dilshad was selling was tipped off by a potential customer.
Dilshad, of Croydon, South London, had bought the fake high-speed drills for £10 from China and was selling them in the UK on eBay for £75. This is significantly below the retail price of genuine dental drills, which can cost between £300 and £600 each.
MHRA investigators also found strips of logo stickers he was using to make the devices appear legitimate. Some of Dilshad’s customers have been tracked down by the MHRA and warned not to use the devices. But not all of those who had bought equipment from him could be traced.
Alastair Jeffrey of the MHRA said: “It is vital that dentists and dental staff buy equipment from bona fide suppliers. I urge all dental professionals to be cautious of seemingly cheap devices that may be unfit for purpose and potentially dangerous to patients and staff who use them. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Danny Lee-Frost, also of the MHRA, added: “These [fake] devices are more likely to fail in use due to poor manufacturing – for example, disintegrating in the patient’s mouth. It’s not difficult to see the serious damage a counterfeit dental device operating at high speed in close proximity to your teeth and gums could do if it fails or shatters in your mouth. The risk to patients’ health and safety is obvious.”
It is not known how many patients have had a counterfeit drill malfunction while in use. – Andrew Gregory