With the alarming news that one in four of us would rather buy risky teeth-whitening kits online or see an illegal beautician than visit our dental practice, cosmetic dentist Zaki Kanaan is warning people to gen up on the dos and don’ts.
The number of people wanting smiles brightened continues to rise but many are still considering illegal routes to the cosmetic treatment — some of us seemingly unaware of the health risks.
And Zaki — our comparethetreatment.com expert — is keen to raise awareness to ensure we all know the safe and legal way to whiten teeth.
He says: ‘Teeth whitening always is one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments available. It is the simplest, quickest, most conservative and most cost-effective way to enhance one’s smile.
‘However, there is definitely a lack of awareness about who can carry out the treatment because the companies and individuals offering the illegal training convince the beauticians and non-dental professionals that teeth whitening is OK for them to do and is totally legal.
‘They tell them that it is the dental profession as a whole being protectionist. Clearly, this isn't the case and the training companies and individuals training non-dental professionals should be targeted as a matter of priority to help stamp out the illegal whiteners.’
Having treated people who have considered going to a beautician — ‘often this is based on price’ — Zaki explains that many change their mind over concerns for the safety of their oral health.
Unsafe, illegal teeth whitening can lead to severe chemical burns that can leave permanent scarring, tooth loss and, in extreme cases, affect the ability to eat and breathe.
Anybody who is not a registered dental professional and is offering teeth whitening treatment using hydrogen peroxide above 0.1% is breaking the law and liable for prosecution.
The rising demand for teeth whitening is driven by the fact that many of us feel it makes us look more youthful, with surveys revealing that, when comparing different smiles on the same person, the ones with whiter teeth were assessed as being younger than those with darker, stained teeth.
Studies have also shown that having a whiter, healthier smile boosts confidence at job interviews and when dating.
CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, adds: ‘Much of this problem comes from the people carrying out the tooth whitening procedures not being aware that it is illegal. Many undergo a brief “training period” with an unscrupulous company and then believe they are qualified to carry out the treatment, but this is wrong and can be hugely dangerous to consumers with the providers facing the severe legal consequences.
‘Ignorance in this case in not a valid excuse, by carrying out these treatments they are breaking the law and will be forced to face the penalties. Fines for carrying our illegal tooth whitening are unlimited so it can have serious financial and professional implications.
‘The cases where illegal and unsafe tooth whitening is leading to serious damage are increasing. There is no reason to put your health at peril and risk permanent and severe damage in order to emulate the fake smiles you see on TV.’