The definitive guide to illegal tooth whitening

Tooth whitening has quickly become an incredibly popular cosmetic procedure for many Brits looking for a brighter smile. Around one in six Brits now say they have had their teeth whitened and the industry is annually worth an estimated £40m.

In the hands of a fully qualified dental health professional, tooth whitening is an effective and very safe procedure which can restore the natural whiteness of a smile. Sadly, the growth and popularity of the industry has become an attractive proposition for illegal providers seeking a quick and easy profit

With this, many unsuspecting people are being put at severe risk from serious and permanent damage to their mouth.

To improve awareness around the legalities of tooth whitening, the Oral Health Foundation has put together a definitive guide on unscrupulous tooth whitening. The following points will enable everybody to protect themselves from dangerous providers and products, and get a pearly white smile without any risk to their health:

1. Only qualified dental professionals can perform tooth whitening. This is a dentist, dental hygienist or 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’ 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 a patient whitening trays to place in their 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, patients 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 the mouth, lips, gums and tongue.

7. It may not work and could leave a patient in constant pain. When used incorrectly whitening is not effective and can even leave 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.

The Oral Health Foundation reiterate, that when performed by a qualified and legal dental health professional, tooth whitening is very safe and effective. Visit or call the Dental Helpline on 01788 539 780 for expert, free and impartial advice.

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