Dental technicians have threatened to occupy the Health Ministry office in Jakarta to protest against a recently enacted ban on them doing actual dentistry work.
The decree, issued last year, stipulated that dental and orthodontic services may only be provided by certified dentists and not by dental technicians, who are only licensed to make dentures.
“If [the decree] is still enforced, members of the ITGI [Indonesian Dental Technician Association] from across Indonesia will occupy the institution enacting it, in this case the Health Ministry in Jakarta,” ITGI secretary general Faisol Abrori said on Wednesday.
He said nearly all dental technicians, estimated at 75,000 nationwide, would be out of work if the decree was enforced. “We have no other work to do,” he said.
On Wednesday, some 400 ITGI members rallied in Jakarta, starting their demonstration at 9 a.m. in front of the National Monument (Monas) park before marching to the office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The ITGI submitted a formal complaint to Komnas HAM, saying the decree violated their constitutional rights.
“We object to the enactment [of the decree],” Faisol said. “It violates Article 28(a) of the 1945 Constitution, on our right to live and to have a livelihood.”
Dental technicians taking part in the rally carried banners and false teeth while shouting “Long live dental technicians.”
“We have 75,000 members and all of them could lose their jobs,” said ITGI chairman Hasan Busri. “They are the sole breadwinners in their families.”
Komnas HAM deputy chairman Joseph Adi Prasetyo met with the ITGI representatives and promised to raise their concerns with the Health Ministry.
With few community health centers offering dental services, lower-income residents frequently go to dental technicians because they are cheaper than dentists.
Dental technicians are craftsmen employed by dentists to make false teeth and braces, but with demand for cheap dental care growing, the technicians are taking on patients and performing anything from root canals to orthodontic procedures.
In 1969, the government banned dental technicians from performing any dental or orthodontic services, but a 1989 decree eased the restrictions, allowing them to make dentures and fit them for patients.
Last year’s decree nullified the 1989 ministerial decree but dental technicians who obtained their licenses based on the earlier decree will be allowed to continue practicing, albeit under tight supervision, until their license expires, after which they will not be eligible for an extension.