Teeth Whitening In London: Is It Legal?

The tooth whitening market – currently worth £40 million – has rocketed in recent years taking its lead from America, fuelled by a growing desire for the perfect showbiz smile. But tooth whitening in London treatments can run into thousands of pounds, making them the preserve of the rich and famous. Therefore, many Brits have taken their chances at local beauty parlours and the results have been disastrous. Burning gums and ruined enamel are just some of the complaints levelled at beauticians and yet, research in 2010 found one in five people wanting whiter teeth would be willing to go to a beauty salon instead of visiting a dentist in London.

But on 31st October 2012, laws relating to tooth whitening in London changed. Here’s our guide to what’s legal and what’s not.

If you’re interested in having teeth whitening in London, you have three legal options:

1)      Home whitening under the supervision of a dental professional

2)      Over the counter whitening products, bought from your local chemist

3)      Chair side whitening by a dentist

The law has implications for points 1 and 2, but for point 3, nothing has changed.

1. Home whitening or ‘self dosing’ under the supervision of a London dental professional

The Amendment increases the percentage of hydrogen peroxide allowed in tooth whitening products to 6% for take home procedures. 16% carbamide peroxide is also allowed because when it breaks down, it produces less than 6% hydrogen peroxide. The Amendment is clear: a full examination by a dental professional must first be undertaken before tooth-whitening products can be prescribed, so that the patient can do it on their own at home.

The Amendment makes it illegal for beauticians to administer tooth whitening products, using hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. The GDC has received reports that in anticipation of the Amendment, 95% of those beauticians practicing tooth whitening are planning to circumvent the Law by using chlorine dioxide. This chemical is not yet regulated in teeth whitening products and falls outside the remit of Trading Standards regulation.

2. Over the Counter in London

0.1% is the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide found in over the counter teeth whitening products. As a consequence, most dentists believe these products are broadly ineffective for tooth whitening in London. In fact, a recent survey carried out by the Consumer Association showed that these tooth whitening products were unlikely to do more than remove surface stains such as tea, coffee and tobacco. The British Dental Health Foundation believes surgery-based teeth whitening procedures are very effective, but while home whitening kits, available from chemists, contain legal amounts of peroxide, they do not contain enough to be effective.

3. Chair side whitening by a London dentist, otherwise known as Power Whitening

The Amendment to the Law and the restrictions on hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide usage only relate to ‘self dosing’ by the patient as opposed to by dental professionals in the clinic/ surgery.

Teeth whitening in London falls under the practice of dentistry and is therefore governed by the Dentist Act 1984, says the GDC. Train as a dentist and you can perform any procedure that falls under the practice of dentistry, as defined by the GDC. There are not the same restrictions/ limitations for a dentist regarding tooth whitening when being performed by a dental professional in his or her surgery or clinic.