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Illegal tooth whitening on the rise

  • This blog discusses the rise of illegal teeth whitening and who is able to provide such treatment.

    By Ben Lees

The General Dental Council (GDC), the regulatory watchdog for dental practices and practitioners in the UK, have made it abundantly clear that all providers of tooth whitening services must be fully qualified in dentistry, however, reports of illegal tooth whitening are increasing with more unqualified providers seeking loopholes in the rules.

Tooth whitening has become a £1billion-a-year business in the UK, therefore, it is no wonder that plenty of ‘entrepreneurial Delboys’ have set-up lucrative dental cosmetics websites and practices providing teeth whitening services to unknowing members of the public.

For instance, Ali Taha set up a business to train ‘cosmetologists’ to provide equipment and laser whitening treatment with minimal training. Mr Taha is not a qualified dental practitioner and is not listed on the General Dental Council’s register. He advised an undercover reporter, posing as a prospective trainee, that despite being unqualified, prosecution or fines for providing the service could be avoided by the treatment provider ensuring that they ‘chaperone’ the treatment and instruct the patient to apply the gel and hold the laser equipment themselves.

You may think that simply applying gel to a tooth should not require particular skill, however, the whitening products provided in a practice usually contain much higher levels of peroxide in comparison to home-whitening kits that can be bought on the high street. With the increase in concentration of what is inherently a harmful chemical being applied to the teeth, it is vital that a qualified practitioner supervises and monitors the treatment throughout to check for any signs that the treatment is causing harm or damage.

The GDC continue to regulate this area and investigations have identified over a thousand cases of potentially illegal tooth whitening practices in the past year. There have been over 30 prosecutions of unqualified practitioners for providing whitening treatment illegally. This is as a result of general regulation and the 1,600 complaints relating to allegedly substandard whitening treatment the GDC has received.

The consequences of ‘botching’ whitening treatment can result in blistered lips, gum tissue and mouth ulcers, extreme sensitivity, burning of the gums and inflammation.

Our Experience

Specialising in Dental Negligence cases provides me with valuable insight into current trends and dental treatment increasingly in demand. It appears that with more members of the public aiming for whiter and straighter teeth, comes a rise in prosecutions and regulatory proceedings being taken against those recommending products that are unsuitable and using products they are not qualified to use.

This correlation is no coincidence and sadly, widespread press coverage and increased awareness of the requirements for providing treatments will be required to encourage due diligence among patients before embarking on a potentially harmful treatment plan.

In addition to the rise in popularity of such treatment and regulation of the service providers, I have received more enquiries and instructions from patients worried that they have received negligent cosmetic treatment.

If you are concerned that you have received tooth whitening and cosmetic treatment that may have been illegal or negligent, I would advise that you seek medical advice and treatment for any side effects you may be experiencing.

If you wish to obtain legal advice on the matter, feel free to call a member of our Dental Negligence team.

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