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 and the law is clear that tooth whitening should be carried out within the practice of dentistry. This means that 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 it.
When a registered practitioner performs tooth whitening on a patient, they carry out a number of processes and procedures that ensure that the patient is both suitable for tooth whitening and that it is safe to perform on them.
- act in the best interests of the patient in providing a high standard of care
- obtain fully informed consent for treatment, which they must be competent to carry out
- obtain a medical history of the patient before starting treatment
- give necessary explanations about benefits and risks
Most importantly, a dentist is sufficiently trained to be able intervene should the patient not be comfortable or suffer an allergic reaction.
When carrying out a tooth whitening cycle, the first use must be carried out by a dental practitioner or under their direct supervision. Afterwards, the product may be given to the consumer to complete the cycle.
We do not register premises or individuals to carry out tooth whitening.
Criminal prosecutions for the illegal practice of dentistry can carry significant fines because of the risk these treatments pose to members of the public.
The video below, produced by the Department for the Economy Trading Standards Service for Northern Ireland and the Environmental Health Departments of the eleven District Councils with support from the British Dental Association, highlights the risks of some tooth whitening products and services and advises people to protect their smile by speaking to their dentist before getting their teeth whitened.
To view the ‘Protect Your Smile’ video visit: www.nidirect.gov.uk/tooth-whitening.
Tooth whitening products
While only dental professionals can provide a tooth-whitening service, it is perfectly legal for anyone to treat themselves with an over-the-counter kit, provided it contains less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. However according to the General Dental Council, dentists are trained to know what whitening products will be safe for your teeth and gums, whilst products provided by non-dentists often do not have enough safety data and evidence to support their use; this can result in burned gums and/or blistered lips or even more serious consequences. The GDC also states that the products available to buy online or from High Street shops often fail to declare the precise chemicals used so it is very difficult to assess their safety.
Under the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013 retailers (including beauticians, hairdressers, chemists, pop-up stalls or shops) can only supply tooth whitening products which contain or release 0.1% hydrogen peroxide or less.
Tooth whitening products which contain or release levels of hydrogen peroxide between 0.1% & 6% can only be sold to dental practitioners.
Tooth whitening products which contain or release more than 6% hydrogen peroxide are illegal.
Any retailer supplying tooth whitening products must check the products and all accompanying documentation to make sure they contain (or release) no more than 0.1% of Hydrogen peroxide. The fine for selling non-compliant tooth whitening products can be up to £20,000.To check that your dental professional is properly registered, please visit the General Dental Council’s website to check the GDC’s registers of dental professionals at www.gdc-uk.org.
If you come across any individual providing tooth whitening whom you believe is not registered with the General Dental Council, or any tooth whitening product which may be illegal, contact the Environmental Health department on 028 9244 7300 or speak to the Trading Standards Service by calling Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.