If you are wishing for a white Christmas this year, a leading oral health group is advising you to do it properly and visit the dentist.

The Tooth Whitening Information Group (TWIG) is warning people against purchasing and cashing in on cheap tooth whitening treatments being offered by non-qualified technicians this Christmas.

Cheap deals from beauticians, at whitening kiosks, online and over-the-counter might help to satisfy budgets, but they can potentially darken the festive mood if they go wrong.

The law relating to tooth whitening changed in October 2012 and clarified it as an act of dentistry that should only be offered and carried out by qualified dental professionals. The European Directive on this has been confirmed by the High Court. This means that anybody carrying out tooth whitening other than a qualified dental professional is doing it illegally.

There is also a legal age limit for tooth whitening, which means you have to be at least 18 years old to have it done. Also, the law says that tooth-whitening products containing or releasing more than 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide can now only be sold to a registered dental professional offering the treatment in their practice (these products must also not contain or release more than 6 per cent hydrogen peroxide).

Tooth-whitening products or kits you buy over the counter or on the internet can legally only contain or release up to 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide. This concentration is ineffective and too low to have any noticeable effect on the colour of your teeth.

Chief Executive of the oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, stressed the value and importance of making the right choice about tooth whitening.

Dr Carter said: “There are already a vast number of Christmas promotions on tooth whitening deals. It is a growing trend, and if done properly can make a difference to the appearance of your smile.

“To make sure there are no repercussions, you need to visit your dentist.  Dental professionals train for many years to understand the structures of the mouth, to recognise dental disease and to prescribe the correct treatment for each individual patient. 

“The chemicals used to whiten the teeth, could permanently damage the teeth and gums. To protect the public against this type of damage, the person providing the treatment must be fully dentally qualified and registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).

“Tooth whitening may seem to be simple. However, because the chemicals used actually sink into the tooth surface, it could cause permanent damage to the tooth surface. A dentist may be more expensive than the cheaper alternatives, but they are best-placed to offer advice and carry out the procedure.”