Magazines, websites, newspapers and high street billboards are awash with adverts promising a brighter smile and an instant makeover with just a spot of teeth whitening. But, is it really that simple? Many of us remain under the illusion that getting a ‘picture perfect’ new white smile is easy. And there are many of us who still believe that teeth whitening can be carried out in hairdressing salons and beauty parlours, in pop-up kiosks, inside shopping malls or even in our own homes! Often, people working in the beauty industry are sold expensive teeth-whitening courses and equipment by unscrupulous traders who lead them to believe the process is legal. And unsuspecting, we take it all at face value…
So, do you really know who can whiten your teeth? The fact is that only a qualified and registered member of the dental profession can carry it out and, anyone else who offers it, is practising dentistry illegally. Unqualified and unsafe, they run the risk of not only being prosecuted in the criminal courts, but also doing serious harm to your teeth.
So, let’s play a game of teeth-whitening ‘true or false’…
Beauticians are allowed to whiten teeth
FALSE There are strict regulations about who can and cannot administer teeth whitening. Dentists and beauticians are not interchangeable so don’t even think about popping in to those pop-up whitening booths that appear in your local shopping mall for teeth whitening. It may seem like any other cosmetic procedure — such as a bikini wax, eyebrow shaping and gel nails — but whitening is strictly the practise of dentistry and, legally, only a dentist or a specific member of the dental team (under the prescription of a dentist) can whiten your teeth.
Dental nurses can offer teeth whitening — even on their days off
FALSE Only dentists — and dental therapists and dental hygienists under the prescription of a dentist — can offer teeth whitening. The GDC has recently prosecuted a number of dental nurses all offering teeth whitening. And no, they can’t whiten the teeth of their mates!
My friend isn’t using hydrogen peroxide so it’s legal, right?
FALSE Even if your friend is using hydrogen peroxide that’s below the legal limit or a product that does not release hydrogen peroxide, they are still breaking the law and putting your health 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.
I signed up to a training course online. So, it must be legal!
FALSE The BBC’s Watchdog programme recently released a short video warning people of the dangers of signing up to an online teeth-whitening course. With boasts such as: ‘Who can be trained? Anyone! We don’t just restrict our training to dentists’ it delves into the illegal and murky side of cosmetic dental treatment that involves webcam instruction and the use of equipment and chemicals sent through the post. You can watch the video here — http://bbc.in/28OUL1L. But, quite simply, this is illegal and you may be prosecuted if you sign up to deliver teeth whitening in this way.
Food and drink will stain my teeth — and so will ageing
TRUE Teeth tend to yellow with age, and staining can cause the surface to discolour. Tea, coffee and red wine all stain the teeth. Smoking can also discolour them.
Good dental hygiene helps keep teeth white
TRUE Before you seek any teeth whitening treatment, it is important to make sure your teeth are in tip-top condition. It’s no good having a dazzling smile if your teeth and gums are unhealthy! Daily oral hygiene also matters for achieving whiter teeth. Plus, if you have gum disease, you will be in agony because hydrogen peroxide can be an irritant.
We suggest you consult the GDC register of dental professionals before agreeing to any treatment.