Safe Tooth Whitening – The Legal Perspective

The Media

Reality shows have helped to increase the demand for teeth whitening and make it one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments in the UK. 

Of course, the impact of social media has increased awareness of how we look to other, given that we can share images of ourselves with the rest of the world at the click of a send button.

Is It Safe?

The British Dental Association (BDA) says it is, provided it is carried out by a dental professional.  Otherwise, treatments may lead to pain and permanent damage to your gums and/or teeth.   A registered dentist is qualified to carry out an examination of a patient’s mouth to make sure there is nothing preventing the whitening treatment. The trays which contain the bleach have to be made to fit each individual, otherwise any leak could cause burns and if the bleach is swallowed, damage to the rest of the body could occur, and at least nausea and vomiting.   Patients are in safe hands with their dentist or dental hygienist, the latter using a prescription provided by the dentist.

Illegal Providers

Dozens of beauty therapists and others in the UK have offered tooth whitening.  Some even continue after being prosecuted under the Dentists Act 1984.

Some beauticians explain to a customer how to use the whitening and instruct them to do it themselves whilst the beautician stands by.  This is not a way to avoid prosecution or to offer proper care.  It is illegal.

“A defence of merely offering hire of the treatment room in which a patient can carry out their ‘at-home’ whitening is an inadequate one. In this case, from the footage we have seen, this was certainly not made clear to the reporters, the implication was that the company in question was providing the treatment.

“Assuming that she is neither medically or dentally trained, we would question her ability to take and interpret a medical history.”

Mrs Johnstone told 5 Live Investigates: “Simply Chic offers teeth-whitening kits to be purchased at £50 just like High Street chemists and offers the hire of a treatment room. This is also being done right around the UK by High Street companies. A list of instructions informs the client what to do.”

She said her teeth-whitening kits did not contain any hydrogen peroxide and could be used by anyone without the supervision of a dentist.

What about over the counter kits for use at home?

This is legal, provided it contains less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, which renders the products ineffective.  Dentists use 6% peroxide or more.  Some over the counter products don’t even state with any precision which chemicals are used, or their strength, making it even more risky.  One manufacturer was found to have used a substance which could cause abnormalities in any foetus.


The General Dental Council will take people to court over illegal practices, and if they are convicted, the fine is unlimited.  In addition, they could be ordered to pay compensation to any victims as well as court and legal costs.  There is a raft of opinion which believes the penalties should be even more severe for repeat offenders, including imprisonment.  This will stamp out the notion that the profits involved are worth the risk of prosecution.Stay safe – contact your dentist to ask for a free consultation about Boutique Whitening treatments.

Are your patients ready for a whiter, brighter smile?