Illegal teeth-whitening procedures which can cause tooth loss and blisters rise 26%, finds investigation

Sabrina Barr
Stock image of a woman having her teeth whitened: iStock

Reports of teeth-whitening procedures being carried out illegally have increased over the past year, a new investigation has discovered.

According to the General Dental Council (GDC), the dentistry practise of teeth-whitening “can only safely and legally be offered by registered dental professionals”.

However, this legislation hasn’t stopped untrained beauticians from carrying out the procedure, putting the health of patients at risk in the process.

The BBC recently carried out an investigation looking into the prevalence of illegal teeth-whitening in the UK.

The broadcaster found that in 2019, 732 cases of illegal teeth-whitening procedures were reported to the GDC.

This marked a 26 per cent increase from the year before, when 582 cases of illegal teeth-whitening were reported to the council.

The GDC stated that since 2015, it has launched 126 prosecutions against people unlawfully conducting teeth-whitening procedures.

Dr Ben Atkins, president of the Oral Health Foundation, emphasised the danger of causing errors in dentistry.

“When things go wrong in dentistry, things can really go wrong,” Dr Atkins said.

“I’ve been that dentist with the full back up service when the patient’s had that heart attack. It would be catastrophic for the patient and the person who’s been trained and told it’s legal to do it.”

When beauticians who are not trained in dentistry use teeth-whitening kits on patients, there can be repercussions including burns, blisters and tooth loss, the BBC report warned.

For the investigation, the broadcaster sent two undercover reporters to attend a five-hour teeth-whitening course with the London School of Nails and Beauty.

Those in attendance at the course were informed they could earn “from £80 upwards per session” after being certificated to carry out the procedure.

Cha McDonald, principal of the institution, said that “thousands” of people received teeth-whitening training at the school.

A spokesperson for the GDC stressed the legal implications of allowing people who are not qualified to whiten patient’s teeth.

“Handing an individual a tooth whitening tray and advising them on application, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of ‘advice or attendance’ and in those circumstances would be a criminal offence,” the spokesperson said.

The British Dental Association (BDA) stated that “sham” schools took advantage of the “vulnerabilities of beauticians and others” to offer teeth-whitening training.

The investigation was featured on BBC London TV News and Inside Out and on BBC iPlayer.

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