Doctors warn fashionable dental braces can kill
Experts find deadly cadmium in samples
The Dental Council has warned teenagers wearing fake dental braces in the hope of making a fashion statement to be wary, as testing has showed the accessories are laden with toxic heavy metal.
"From the two samples we bought from an illegal shop, we have detected an amount of cadmium that would not be found in legal ones issued by a professional dental clinic," Thongchai Vachirarojpisan, the vice-president of the Dental Council, said yesterday.
The Dental Council inspected the sale of fake dental braces which have been popular among Thai teenagers over the past few years.
For many, wearing dental braces is a sign they have wealth and social status.
Real dental braces for actual orthodontic treatment cost at least 50,000 baht per set, while fake ones cost around 1,400 baht. The fake dental braces are designed with colourful features to appeal to teenagers.
Yet there are reports of harmful effects.
The latest case involved the death of a 14-year-old girl from Chon Buri who died last November after she wore fake pink-coloured dental braces for two months.
The autopsy did not state that wearing the fake braces was responsible for her death, but the report showed her dental cavity and gums were severely infected.
Another teenager who was wearing fake braces suffered a heart attack and later died.
Doctors concluded the heart attack was a result of wearing the fake braces for a long time.
The Dental Council said fake dental braces are often made by underground clinics that use sub-standard quality materials which contain heavy metal, especially deadly cadmium.
Since April last year, the Dental Council has received 308 tips related to fake dental braces.
Consumer protection networks and authorities teamed up with police and launched an investigation.
"It is hard to arrest the sellers as their shops are usually listed on social media platforms," Dr Thongchai said.
"Their real address is different from what is posted.
"So we need to send people posing as buyers to find the culprits and purchase dental braces for quality and toxicity testing."
The probe found 90 illegal orthodontic dental clinics.
These facilities and shops were located in 19 provinces, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khon Kan and Samut Prakan provinces.
The fake dental braces business is thriving as it lures many young consumers.
The latest illegal online shop, discovered on Jan 4, reportedly made sales of almost 20 million baht in a year.
Pol Gen Prateep Charoenkan, of the Office of the Consumer Protection, warned consumers to beware.
Besides the risk of harmful materials, staff in these illegal dental services did not have medical training.
After investigating over 308 cases, the authority will widen its search to the underground factories that produce fake dental braces for shops and illegal clinics.
The authority believed most manufacturers were illegal but it did not rule out the possibility that licensed manufacturers might also be involved.
It was not clear how many arrests or convictions have resulted, or whether warnings are helping to deter teens.
As well as hunting the illegal manufacturers and sellers, Dental Council chairman Pisan Kangwonkit said the committee on consumer protection had announced a ban on online sales of orthodontic and dental tools.
Wrongdoers who are convicted can be fined up to 500,000 baht and face five years' jail, or both.
The Dental Council is revising some parts of the Medical Tools Act related to the sale of orthodontic and dental accessories.
Dr Pisan said the amendment will impose more controls on the import of materials, manufacturing and distribution.