Tooth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic treatments with products available widely in shops and online. The practice involves bleaching the teeth using a whitening product usually containing hydrogen peroxide. There are things you should consider before getting your teeth whitened.
Tooth whitening by dental professionals
Tooth whitening is safe if it is carried out by a registered dental professional but an untrained person could cause permanent damage to teeth and gums.
It is a criminal offence for anyone other than a registered dentist or dental hygienist, dental therapist or clinical dental technician acting to the prescription of a dentist, to offer or provide tooth whitening services.
The video below highlights the dangers of illegal whitening services.
Criminal prosecutions for the illegal practice of dentistry can carry significant fines because of the risk that these treatments pose.
To check that your dental professional is registered, visit the General Dental Council (GDC) website.
Tooth whitening products
There are different types of tooth whitening products.
Over-the-counter tooth whitening products
While only dental professionals can provide a tooth-whitening service, it is legal for anyone to treat themselves with an over-the-counter kit only if it contains less than 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide.
Products available to buy online or from high street shops often don't declare the chemicals they contain so they may not be safe to use.
Tooth whitening products given to you by dental professionals
Only registered dental professionals can supply tooth whitening products that contain or release between 0.1 to six per cent hydrogen peroxide.
A dental professional must carry out a clinical examination with you before you use such a product and they must make sure that your exposure to it is limited.
Registered dentists are trained to know which whitening products will be safe for your teeth and gums.
Products given to you by non-dentists often do not have enough safety data and evidence to support their use and this can result in burned gums and/ or blistered lips or something more serious.
There is more information on the General Dental Council website.
One of the most common injuries happens when the mouth-guard containing the bleaching gel (peroxide) does not fit properly and some of it leaks causing painful chemical burns to the mouth, lips, gums and tongue, or indeed sickness when people accidentally swallow the bleaching product.
Some of the whitening kits used at home can harm tooth enamel.
If you come across any individual providing tooth whitening whom you believe is not be registered with the General Dental Council or any tooth whitening product which may be illegal, contact the Environmental Health department in your local council or speak to the Trading Standards Service by calling Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.