The truth about tooth whitening

March 31st, 2015

This week a friend told me that they’d been given a voucher to have their teeth whitened at a local beauty salon. As my friend started thinking aloud about when she’d go for her treatment, alarm bells started ringing in my head: something just didn’t sound right. Today’s article focuses on the legalities surrounding tooth whitening, and answers some key questions.

Is tooth whitening a dental or a cosmetic procedure?

Over the years, various court cases have considered whether tooth whitening should be considered a dental or a cosmetic procedure. The classification of the products used and the way in which the procedure is carried out have all formed part of the debate. The final ruling is that tooth whitening is a dental procedure, and should be governed as such.

Who can legally carry out tooth whitening procedures?

In short, the only people who are legally allowed to whiten teeth are dentists, suitably trained dental therapists and dental hygienists, and clinical dental technicians who are working to the prescription of a dentist.

Beware of others who offer teeth whitening illegally: Whitening is often offered through beauty salons, hairdressers, or other associated trades. It is also possible to attend a course in which training in tooth whitening is given, however this does not qualify a person to carry out the procedure. The only way someone can legally whiten teeth is if they have completed formal dental training, successfully qualified and then joined the register of dental professionals operated by the General Dental Council, the government regulator of dentistry. The regulator provides patients with the assurance that patients are cared for by competent professionals backed by an industry complaints service and mandatory insurance cover to act as a safety net.

Couldn’t I just try an over-the-counter home kit?

Home whitening kits are widely available on the high street. They can appeal as a cheaper option than face-to-face dental treatment, however thought should be given carefully. These kits are not always properly assessed for safety, and can be much more acidic than dentist bleaching treatments. By using an illicit home whitening kit, you could put your teeth and gums at risk. It’s also worth noting that in Europe, it is illegal to supply any bleaching material containing more than 0.1% peroxide to anyone other than a dentist. Therefore the amount of bleach in the legally-available home kits is too weak to be effective.

What about using whitening toothpastes?

There are many products on the market that describe themselves as ‘whitening’ toothpastes. These toothpastes work by removing staining and making the natural colour of your teeth more visible, rather than by altering the natural colour of your teeth. However these toothpastes may be abrasive and you may risk damaging your tooth enamel.  A better way to remove stain is to have it professionally removed regularly by your dental hygienist or dentist.

When purchasing oral-care products it is a good idea to look out for the British Dental Health Foundation logo on the packaging. If this is present, you can be sure that the claims made about the product have been scientifically and clinically checked by an independent panel of experts.

Whilst tooth whitening seems to be readily available these days, it’s important to think carefully before undertaking any procedure. On the face of it, my friend was really excited about the prospect of a gleaming set of teeth and a Hollywood smile. However, she could have been putting her teeth and gums at serious risk by having her teeth whitened illegally by a beautician.

If you are considering tooth whitening, call in to discuss the procedure with us at Ock Street. We have a range of options carried out by our dental team and would be very happy to find you an option that meets your requirements.

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