On 31 October 2012, the EU Council Directive 2011/84/EU came into force in the UK. It sets out who can use what strength of product when carrying out tooth whitening.

In the UK, the changes were brought into force by the European Communities (Cosmetic Products) Regulations 2004 to 2013.

The Regulations say that products containing or releasing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide can be used, as long as:

  • Products of this strength are sold only to dental practitioners.
  • A dentist has first examined the patient to make sure there are no risks or any other concern about their oral condition.
  • The patient is over 18 years old.
  • For each cycle of use, first use is by a dental practitioner or under their direct supervision by a dental hygienist or dental therapist.

Over-the-counter products

Tooth-whitening products and kits bought over the counter on the internet can legally only contain up to 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide.

This concentration is too low to have any noticeable effect on the colour of the teeth.

Products that contain over 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide can legally only be sold to a dentist.

Who cannot provide tooth whitening?

The General Dental Council takes the view that applying materials and carrying out procedures designed to improve the appearance of the teeth amounts to 'the practice of dentistry'.

This was recently confirmed by the High Court when it overturned a magistrates court’s decision to acquit Ms Lorna Jamous of the offences of practising dentistry and unlawfully carrying on the business of dentistry when not registered by the GDC.

This decision confirmed that tooth whitening can only be provided by a qualified and registered dentist,  dental hygienist or dental therapist working to the prescription of a dentist.

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