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Thu 18 Sep 2008 02:34 PM

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Supply woes worsen

The equipment supply issues plaguing the industry in March are still causing consternation among dentists.

At the end of the sluggish summer months, it seems clear the equipment supply issues plaguing the industry back in March are still causing consternation among dentists.

The situation has been exacerbated by the latest regulations regarding single-use instruments. In Dubai, the Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS) now insists that certain burs and files, particularly those used in endodontics, are disposable.

This certainly isn’t a negative thing, as many dentists will agree. But there is a downside; namely that supply of dental equipment to the region remains sporadic and uncertain.

Dentist across the United Arab Emirates need multiple sources for the same tool or attachment, because there is no guarantee that when their stockpile runs out, they will be able to get fresh stock in a timely fashion. Orders have to be made months in advance because lead times from local importers can be sketchy.

Dentists also complain of a culture among suppliers that “the next best thing” will be ok. The problem, one dentist explained, is that many suppliers are businessmen and not dentists. They fail to understand that if a particular instrument is required, a close approximation won’t suffice.

One Doha dentist revealed that she spends her vacations in neighbouring Gulf States sourcing new suppliers for basic materials such as composites and cements that are hard to come by on a regular basis in Qatar.

As well as being a source of constant frustration, such kinks in the supply chain create an unnecessary risk in terms of infection control. Dentists, at some point, could be forced to use certain single-use instruments more than once. In addition to directly breaching DoHMS rules, this encourages cross-infection.

However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Major dental equipment firms are starting to view the UAE as central hub for dentistry. If more dental companies can see the business benefits of a Gulf base, local dentists will be able to forge stronger, more reliable links with the supply chain. This will not only enable them to do their job more effectively, but better protect both their patients and their practice in the process.

James McCarthy is the editor of Middle East Dentist.

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