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Illegal Tooth Whitening

  • A blog looking at illegal tooth whitening

    By Naomi Todd

It has emerged following recent investigations that despite previously being prosecuted, there are still a number of so called health professionals providing tooth whitening services illegally. 

 The General Dental Council has already prosecuted 24 people since January, which they confirm is more than the whole of last year.

What is tooth whitening?

Tooth Whitening involves bleaching your teeth using a whitening product usually containing hydrogen peroxide. The British Dental Association (BDA) has confirmed that whitening is safe if carried out by a registered dental professional. However anyone who does not have the correct training or knowledge could cause permanent damage to your teeth and gums.

Under the Dentists Act 1984, it is illegal for anyone other than dentists or dental health professionals such as hygienists to carry out tooth whitening. The General Dental Council state that “The Dentists Act makes it illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to give ‘treatment, advice or attendance’ that would usually be given by a dentist. Handing an individual a tooth-whitening tray and advising them on application, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of ‘advice or attendance’ and would be illegal.”

The General Dental Council can prosecute those carrying out illegal tooth whitening. Anyone caught before 12 March 2016 faces a maximum fine of £5,000. However, for those prosecuted post March 2016, the fine is unlimited. They may also be ordered to pay other costs including compensation to their victims.

However the British Dental Association believes that punishments should be tougher, and advises that,

“Some of the fines imposed by the courts are derisory – a few hundred pounds, which is doing nothing to stamp out unsafe and illegal tooth whitening. If profits are higher than risks, there is no effective deterrent.”

Despite this, recent investigations have revealed that there are dozens of beauty therapists across the UK offering the treatment. This problem was highlighted by the BBC on Inside Out West on 22 February 2016. The BBC investigation focused on a man offering to carry out illegal tooth whitening only two years after being fined for the offence.

Jason Edworthy was secretly filmed offering to use chlorine dioxide to whiten a reporter’s teeth at a clinic in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, despite the fact that in 2014 he was fined for “unlawfully practising dentistry” in Hertfordshire after a customer suffered burned gums.

Home Kits – are they safe?

While only dental professionals can provide a teeth whitening service, it is perfectly legal for an individual to treat themselves with an over-the-counter kit, provided it contains less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. A dentist though can legally use 6% hydrogen peroxide and some home kits do not contain enough whitening product to be effective.

However, products bought online or from High Street shops often fail to declare the precise chemicals used so it is very difficult to assess their safety.

In September 2015, 5 Live Investigates revealed that they were able to buy a teeth-whitening kit from an online retailer in the UK which contained sodium perborate. This chemical is banned for use in cosmetic products by the EU which says it can cause infertility and foetal abnormalities.

What are the risks?

If you allow someone who is untrained to provide a tooth whitening service, you are at risk of suffering an injury. Injuries can include painful chemical burns caused by leaking bleaching gel, or sickness caused by ingesting the bleaching product.

This is the case even with the home kits, which can harm the tooth enamel, cause stomach problems, mouth infections, toothache, gum-shrinking and nerve damage.

According to the Tooth Whitening Information Group (TWIG) not all home kits are assessed for safety and tend to be more acidic. They advise,

“There is a chance that these products could damage your teeth and gums. Because tooth whitening is a complicated procedure we advise that you always talk to your dentist before starting the treatment”

In August 2015, the Daily Mail reported a story involving a 22 year old man who was left with a hole in his throat after he used a tooth whitening kit. He also had to have one of his back teeth removed, because it had become infected with peroxide, and spent ten days in hospital.

The British Dental Association has confirmed that chlorine dioxide-based whitening products should not be used due to “serious concerns” about safety.

Our experience

If you have suffered an injury as a result of under-going tooth whitening, please feel free to contact us to discuss a potential claim.

Alternatively, if you wish to read more of our blogs, please feel free to visit our website, where we have a range of blogs on different topics which may be of interest to you.

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