Regulator indicates illegal tooth whitening on the rise

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General Dental Council figures show illegal tooth whitening procedures on the rise

A BBC report has found that the number of illegal tooth whitening procedures reported to the General Dental Council rose by 26% in 2019. (Image: Harbucks/Shutterstock)

Fri. 14. February 2020


LONDON, UK: In recent years, tooth whitening has become an increasingly common form of aesthetic dental treatment. Though its provision is legally limited to trained dental professionals, an investigation by the BBC has found that the number of reported illegal tooth whitening procedures in the UK rose by 26% in 2019.

According to an investigation carried out by the national broadcaster, 732 instances of illegal tooth whitening procedures were reported to the General Dental Council (GDC) in 2019. The BBC further revealed that a number of companies offer expedited tooth whitening courses to beauticians and other non-dental cosmetic professionals, a practice that is of dubious legality.

“While cosmetic treatments like tooth whitening and orthodontics may seem like relatively easy procedures, they are quite the opposite,” stated Dr Ben Atkins, president of the Oral Health Foundation, in a press release issued by the charity.

“The potential repercussions of having these treatments by an untrained dental professional can be extremely dangerous. There could be a greater risk of infection and cross-contamination, as well as permanent damage to the teeth gums, mouth and even the jaw,” Atkins continued.

This increase in illegal tooth whitening cases comes on the back of a surge in the popularity of do-it-yourself dentistry, which has been propelled by an increase in the availability of self-deliverable orthodontic and tooth whitening kits. In addition, conducting tooth whitening procedures on patients under 18 years of age has been legalised in certain situations in the UK, as Dr Joseph Greenwall-Cohen explained in an interview with Dental Tribune International.

It's not just cosmetic practitioners who are sometimes falling short in their duty of care, however. A 2019 study from the European Network of  Official Cosmetics Control Laboratories that looked at a number of tooth whitening products' compliance with national or European regulations found that 29% failed to meet the required standards.

“Dentistry is not something that can be picked up in hours, days or months,” remarked Dr Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation. “Beauticians across the UK must be made aware that conducting teeth whitening is illegal and that by doing so they are putting lives at risk.”

One thought on “General Dental Council figures show illegal tooth whitening procedures on the rise

  1. Ray McCarthy says:

    Regulators need to use existing powers or to have their powers increased to inspect and prosecute these illegal practices without first having to receive a complaint from a patient.
    Use of new powers prescribed to the Dental Council of Ireland under a provision of the Consumer Protection Act may be a potential gamechanger.

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