Just how dangerous is teeth whitening?

5 live presenter Adrian Goldberg investigated the dangers of teeth whitening being offered by beauty salons, despite prosecutions.

During the course of 5 live’s investigation, undercover reporters were offered treatment by one therapist who had been fined thousands of pounds just months earlier.  The General Dental Council had already prosecuted 24 people during the year, an increase on the previous year.

With pressures from the media and peers to have an ever whiter smile, the public deserves to know what the dangers are and where these might occur.

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is achieved using a form of bleach, usually hydrogen peroxide. It’s a very popular cosmetic treatment, but there are safety warnings:

The safe option

The British Dental Association (BDA) advises that the safe way to have your teeth whitened is to have it carried out by a registered dental professional. The Association advises that no-one else will have received enough training to keep you from potentially harmful effects. You could have permanent damage to your gums or your teeth if, for example, the product leaks from the mouthguard onto your gums and into your mouth, or there was already some underlying issue with your teeth or gums which the application of bleach can make much worse. Also, someone who is not a dentist may be supplied with a product which is far too strong and illegal to use.

Under the Dentists Act 1984, it’s illegal for anyone other than dentists or dental health professionals such as hygienists to carry out teeth whitening.

Despite prosecutions, beauty salons and people working from their own homes are still offering the treatment. They hand out a simple questionnaire without any knowledge of the individual or the ability to carry out an examination of the mouth.

The instructions they give people are inadequate, for example:

“You have a gum shield in for 13 minutes and you jiggle it around,” she said. “Then you stop it and jiggle it around again in your mouth, press start again, and do it for another 13 minutes.”

There might also be included a comment about seeing your doctor or dentist, and a statement that they were not actually giving the treatment – you were doing this for yourself. The GDC confirmed this is illegal – and not a way to get around the law.

The General Dental Council (GDC) is adamant that people cannot get round the law by handing customers the equipment to do the treatment themselves. A defence in court that the provider was only offering a space in which the user could apply the treatment for themselves would not stand up.

When 5 Live Investigated, one beauty salon owner said: “This salon 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.”

Boutique Whitening‘s comment:  You, your health and wellbeing deserve better.  Pursue the legal route, where you can be assured of safe and effective treatment by an experienced professional.

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