The rise of illegal tooth whitening in Britain

The Rise of Illegal Tooth Whitening in Britain

Dental Treatments
Dental Treatments

Tooth whitening has rapidly become an extremely popular procedure for British people who are on the quest for bright teeth and as such the entire industry has grown to be worth an estimate £40m per year.

If administered by a qualified dental professional, the procedure is an effective and safe method to replenish the natural colour of your teeth and leave them looking bright and white. However, as the industry has grown, illegal providers have looked to provide a black market service in order to make their profit.

To mitigate these risks, the Oral Health Foundation compiled a guide to safe tooth whitening, which you should take on board and keep in mind when considering this treatment and the use of teeth whitening products:

  1. Only qualified dental professionals can perform tooth whitening. This is a dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist. If a local beauty parlour or hairdresser is advertising tooth whitening and they are not a dental professional, they are breaking the law.
  2. Ignorance is not an excuse. Many providers may not even be aware they are breaking the law as they have been told by a ‘trainer’ (or possibily a person selling the tooth whitening kit) that what they are doing is legal. This is incorrect, and they are still liable.
  3. Fines for illegal tooth whitening are unlimited in Britain and every case brought against illegal providers has been successful. Illegal providers are putting their livelihood and reputation on the line if they provide these treatments.
  4. Even if a beauty therapist is handing you whitening trays to place in your mouth saying it is legal, it is still defined as an act of dentistry and illegal under current laws.
  5. In Europe, it is illegal to supply bleaching material containing more than 0.1% peroxide (or the equivalent in carbamide peroxide) to anyone other than a dentist, or direct to the public. If an illegal provider is offering whitening products stronger than this, you are at serious risk.
  6. It can be incredibly dangerous. The laws are in place to prevent serious chemical burns being caused by the peroxide (the substance which whitens teeth). Without the proper procedures in place and used incorrectly these can cause serious and permanent problems to your mouth, lips, gums and tongue.
  7. It may not work and could leave you in constant pain. When used incorrectly whitening is not effective and can even leave your teeth incredibly sensitive when eating or drinking.
  8. If you think somebody is offering illegal tooth whitening, you should report them to the General Dental Council who will investigate and look to protect the public if something illegal is happening.

Pay attention to this quick guide to ensure that you are receiving safe and legal treatment. When performed by a qualified dentist or dental health professional, tooth whitening is a safe and effective method of achieving bright, white teeth.

For further advice on tooth whitening, please visit or call the Dental Helpline on 01788 539 780 for expert, free and impartial advice.


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