Six out of 10 Hong Kong dentists oppose advertising their services, fearing this would cheapen their professional image and trigger a price war, according to the first study of its kind in the SAR. The anti-advertising sentiment prevails despite many dentists admitting that the public knows little about their services. The study's author, associate professor of dentistry at the University of Hong Kong Philip Newsome, said many Hong Kong dentists were living in the past by holding conservative views about advertising. During the study, 271 dentists were interviewed in late 2000. Only 28 per cent of respondents called for an advertising ban to be lifted. Dentists in Hong Kong are not allowed to post advertisements, apart from publicising limited information about their clinics and distributing name cards. A breach of this code may lead to suspension of a dental licence. The United States allowed dentists to advertise in 1983. Other countries followed, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Dr Newsome said despite the lack of enthusiasm for advertising, 70 per cent of respondents felt people did not know enough about their services. He said the 28 per cent support for deregulation was a cause for concern. 'We need some discussion about it and in future consumers will have a say and may push the profession to change. Many Hong Kong dentists are still living in the past. They spend so much time taking care of how big their signboards are,' he said. Dr Newsome, in dismissing concerns over the profession's image, said: 'Dentists in private practice are running a business - it's a fact, whether you like it or not.' He said advertising gave consumers more information to make a better choice. It also served as a channel for the public to learn more about dental health, he said. Dr Newsome believed some dentists opposed advertising because they feared their peers would fail to provide honest information. The Dental Council recorded a significant increase in the number of complaints in 2000 when it processed 87 disciplinary cases, an increase of 19 per cent over the previous year. The most significant rise related to complaints about advertising, with seven complaints received in 1998, 11 in 1999 and 19 in 2000. Most of the complaints about dentists advertising or canvassing for patients were filed by other dentists. The Dental Association wrote to all members last August reminding them of the advertising ban.