Indonesia’s informal dentists bite back on ban

Indonesia’s informal dentists bite back on ban

Friday, November 22, 2013 – 03:00

The New Paper

For more than 30 years, Indonesian Edi Herman has been fixing the teeth of Jakartans in the rusty chair of his tiny shop. He is one of thousands of low-cost, unlicensed dentists, whose small stores with their lurid signs can be found nestled in grimy alleys and wedged between redtiled houses across the capital. But after years of horror stories about people suffering terrible damage at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners with neither clean tools nor training, the government moved to ban them from all dental work in 2011.But the unlicensed dentists are fighting back. They have managed to get the ban overturned after challenging it in the constitutional court – and are now demanding the right to practise, AFP reported.

“We demand to be granted a licence so we can operate legally. We will never give up our fight,” said chairman of the Informal Dentists’ Association, Dwi Waris Supriyono.

For Mr Herman, 56, a ban would have destroyed his livelihood and stopped him from practising a trade passed down to him and his brothers by their father.

“The government wants to put us out of business,” said Mr Herman, dressed in a faded T-shirt and sarong. “But I’ve been doing this since 1980, and I don’t want to lose my job.”

The informal dentists argue that they are the only realistic option for many in a country where millions live in abject poverty.

Mr Herman charges just 50,000 rupiah (around S$5) for a simple scaling job, and about 1.5 million rupiah to fit a brace – four to five times lower than prices at licensed dentists.

Easier to Find

It is also much easier to find an informal dentist. The health ministry estimates there are 75,000 of them in Indonesia, compared with 35,000 licensed practitioners.

The government insists that reports of dental disaster at the hands of unlicensed practitioners vindicate its drive to impose a ban.

One such case is that of cleaner Fitri Hayati, whose attempts to get her teeth straightened at two illegal dentists in Jakarta were far from successful.

The 24-year-old was fitted with braces but one tooth has been pushed down, so it now looks longer than the others, and she said she suffers from “unbearable pain”.

Senior health ministry official Untung Suseno Sutarjo said: “These practitioners have no qualifications. They use tools which have not been cleaned or sterilised properly.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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