10 February 2020

The Oral Health Foundation is advising people to avoid having dental treatment outside of the dental surgery, following a new BBC report into the rise of illegal teeth whitening procedures.

Official figures show the number of illegal teeth whitening procedures in the UK have risen by 26% in the last year.

Despite the treatment being offered in beauty salons and kiosks across the UK, teeth whitening can only legally be carried out by a trained dental professional, such as a dentist or hygienist.

Dentist Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, says the potential consequences of having dental treatment by those unqualified to do so are “severe” and could have “lasting consequences” for a person’s health.

Dr Atkins says: “While cosmetic treatments like tooth whitening and orthodontics may seem like relatively easy procedures, they are quite the opposite.  These are medical procedures and should only ever be carried out by a dental professional.

“The potential repercussions of having these treatments by a non-trained dental professional can be extremely dangerous.  There could be a greater risk of infection and cross contamination, as well as permanent damage to the teeth gums, mouth and even the jaw. 

“These are the kind of consequences that can last a lifetime, cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and are highly expensive to correct.

“Never gamble with your health. Always see a trained and qualified professional for dental treatment of any kind.”

The BBC investigation into illegal tooth whitening procedures has uncovered several companies who are offering training to unknowing beauticians.

Many courses being sold to beauticians only last a few hours, with one beauty school claiming to have trained thousands of candidates, providing them with fake qualifications.

The General Dental Council said that it launched 126 prosecutions against illegal teeth whiteners since 2015. It lacks the powers to prosecute those performing the training as exposed by BBC.

One beautician who had undergone similar training says: "I may as well have burnt the money I spent.  I was struggling as a beautician as it was and I nearly went bankrupt.

"I think as a direct result I lost all my confidence. I went through anxiety and suffered depression. It's disgusting people like me are being misled."

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Having cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening conducted cheaply and quickly isn’t as consumer-savvy as many are led to believe.

“The lasting impact of having treatment done by someone who isn’t qualified can be devastating.

“Dentistry is not something that can be picked up in hours, days or months. The chemicals used to whiten teeth are toxic and, if not used safely, can cause permanent damage to teeth and gums.

“There is a lot that can go wrong in dentistry and professionals are the only ones who are suitably trained to make these potential risks less likely and deal with any issues in a suitable and timely manner should they occur. 

“Beauticians across the UK must be made aware that conducting teeth whitening is illegal and that by doing so they are putting lives at risk.”

For more information on tooth whitening, please visit www.dentalhealth.org/safetoothwhitening.

Alternatively, contact the Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline for free confidential advice by calling 01788 539780.