Many people still believe that the tooth whitening can be carried out in the salon, in pop-up kiosks or in the client’s home. Often, people in the beauty industry are sold expensive tooth-whitening courses and equipment by unscrupulous traders who lead them to believe the process is legal.

Here are some frequently asked questions to help make situation clear. If your question is not answered here, or you would like more information, you can either e-mail helpline@dentalhealth.org. Or call 01788 539780 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and one of our trained dental advisors will be pleased to help you.

Is it legal for me to offer tooth whitening?

No, it is not legal for anyone other than a dentist (or dental hygienist or dental therapist working to prescription of a dentist) to carry out tooth whitening.

Why is it not legal? Tooth whitening seems so simple!

Dental professionals train for many years to understand the structures of the mouth, to recognise dental disease and to prescribe the correct treatment for each individual patient.

The chemicals used to whiten the teeth, could permanently damage the teeth and gums. To protect the public against this type of damage, the person providing the treatment must be fully dentally qualified and registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).

Tooth whitening may seem to be simple. However, because the chemicals used actually sink into the tooth surface, it could cause permanent damage to the tooth surface.

I am not using hydrogen peroxide, so tooth whitening cannot be illegal, can it?

As a recent court case has highlighted (see the News section, Lorna Jamous ), tooth whitening has been decided by a High Court judge, to be ‘the act of dentistry.’ So even if you are using below the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide or a product which does not release hydrogen peroxide, you will still be breaking the law and putting your clients at risk.

Products used by a dental professional have been thoroughly tested for many years and have been proven to work without being harmful to the teeth or gums.

At best, other untested products that you may be using will not be effective and at worst, they could cause permanent damage.

Would my insurance cover me if I carried out tooth whitening?

No. The British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC ) states that they will not insure for tooth whitening as there is no government-recognised qualification for this treatment.

It is very unlikely that any other insurance company would cover you for a treatment that has been proven in the High Court to be illegal.

I provide a self-administered system, using pre-loaded trays. Is this illegal?

This is still illegal! In County Court at Bromley in October 2014, Judge Cridge decided that

- Handing the pack to the client and giving them advice to read and instructions to follow
- Taking a ‘before’ shade
- Handing dark glasses to the client
- Setting the timer on the ‘laser’ device
- Placing the ‘laser’ device against the clients teeth
- After treatment, removing light, glasses and tooth whitening trays from the client
- Taking an ‘after shade

These stages were all deemed to be the Act of Dentistry and therefore illegal if not carried out by a qualified and registered dental professional.

Therefore if you carry out tooth whitening using this type of self-administered system, you are doing so illegally and could be prosecuted by the General Dental Council.

What are the penalties if I am prosecuted?

Up until recently, the maximum fine for this offence was set at £5000, however has now changed and there is no maximum fine. So you could be risking much more than the health of your clients.

As well as a hefty fine, you could expect a Conditional Discharge plus victim surcharge and costs.

Is it really worth it?

Why is it important that a dental professional carries out tooth whitening treatment?

All dental professionals and dental practices must adhere to the Health Technical Memorandum 01-05 (HTM 01- 05) Decontamination in primary care dental practices.

Health Technical Memorandum 01-05 is intended to progressively raise the quality of decontamination work in primary care dental services by covering the decontamination of reusable instruments within dental facilities.

Everyone deserve to be treated in a safe and clean environment with consistent standards of care every time you receive treatment. It is essential that the risk of person-to-person transmission of infections be minimised as much as possible.

This means that:
• Essential quality requirements, and
• Best practice can be achieved and demonstrated.

Non-GDC registered, illegal providers of tooth whitening, such as beauticians, beauty salons, pop-up booths, mobile operators do not have to adhere to these regulations.

So not only are you risking the health of your clients teeth and gums, you could be exposing yourself to the risk of person-to-person transmission of infections.

Link: Decontamination, Health Technical Memorandum, 01-05: Decontamination in primary care dental practices

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