By Andrew Culbard

A RECENT report from the General Dental Council (GDC) shows illegal teeth-whitening has increased by 26 per cent in the UK in the last year. With this information on the significant increase in illegal dental practices recently coming to light, it’s now more important than ever to ensure any planned cosmetic procedures (like teeth whitening) are carried out by a registered, qualified dentist.

Many choose to use relatively harmless at-home kits and whitening toothpastes, and it may seem that teeth-whitening procedures carried out by beauticians are quite safe, but some of the chemicals and materials used can be extremely harmful to patients if in the wrong hands and not used correctly. In fact, dental grade Hydrogen Peroxide (active ingredient in teeth whitening) is 60 times stronger than what you can buy in the shops and requires months of training to fully understand proper usage, potency, and effects on individual patients, making finding a qualified dentist imperative.

Laws around teeth whitening are stringent as the procedure can only legally be performed in the UK by professionals registered with the General Dental Council, and violators may be met with a criminal record, or at worse an unlimited fine. However, there are still reportedly many beauty schools and cosmetology courses which provide illegitimate teeth-whitening certificates to unwitting beauticians, keen to take advantage of the increasing demand for perfectly white teeth.

With the popularity of the perfect “Instagram-worthy” smile on influencers across social media, it’s easy to understand why we’ve seen such a sharp increase in UK residents looking for teeth-whitening procedures on a budget. Unfortunately, teeth-whitening carried out by anyone other than a GDC registered dentist will be at best disappointingly ineffective or short-term, or at worst, highly damaging.

What is important to understand with this issue is that these procedures are taught to dentistry students over the course of a five or six years-long degree. Those who do not have a degree and license in dentistry with the GDC have not received crucial information regarding possible allergic reactions, chemical makeup of substances, burns to the soft tissues like the lips and tongue, and even permanent damage to the teeth and gums. Most importantly, they have not learned the skills required to deal with these issues should they arise.

We must also be wary that substances used in illegal teeth-whitening are unregulated and could therefore include any manner of materials which may be imported from other countries or contain ingredients unapproved for use in the UK and/or harmful to skin, teeth or gums.

Not only are these illegal teeth-whitening procedures potentially disastrous with the worst cases including tooth loss and nerve damage, but they are taking advantage both of unsuspecting customers looking for a brighter smile, and beauticians unaware of the restrictive laws and consequences in place.

If you are a beautician looking to collect more skills to offer to your clients, do not accept any “training” for teeth-whitening procedures as it is not legitimate and you may face a criminal record, unlimited fines, and even be prosecuted by the GDC.

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of your dentist, simply look up their name in the search section of the General Dental Council website – if they are registered (and therefore qualified to administer dental practices including teeth-whitening) they will appear in the search results. If they do not appear in the search results, be safe and cancel your appointment with them.

Andrew Culbard is a licensed and professional dentist who specialises in cosmetic dentistry and facial aesthetics in his clinic in the West End of Glasgow