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Illegal tooth whitening continues to trouble dentists

An investigation by BBC journalists has suggested that a worrying number of people are still performing illegal and dangerous tooth whitening procedures, despite a number of high-profile fines and prosecutions.

According to 5 Live Investigates, the General Dental Council (GDC) has already prosecuted 24 people for this kind of offence in 2015, meaning the total for the entirety of 2014 has already been surpassed.

Under the Dentists Act of 1984, it is illegal for anyone who is not a dentist or a similarly trained professional (such as a dental hygienist) to offer tooth whitening. Despite this, the treatment is advertised at a number of beauty salons around the country.

Undercover reporters were offered a whitening treatment by a woman who had previously been fined for “unlawfully holding herself out as being prepared to practice dentistry”. The reporters claimed that she tried to get around the law by explaining that she would hand the customer the equipment and let them do it themselves.

However, the GDC told the BBC: “The Dentists Act makes it illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to give ‘treatment, advice or attendance’ that would usually be given by a dentist.

“Handing an individual a tooth-whitening tray and advising them on application, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of ‘advice or attendance’ and would be illegal.”

Despite this, it is legal for a beauty salon to sell DIY kits, providing they contain 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide or less, compared to the six per cent formulation that can be used by a dentist, meaning that some DIY options do not have enough of the active ingredient to be effective.

However, some of the other ingredients in over-the-counter kits can be dangerous, even if the hydrogen peroxide is within legal limits. One test purchased by the journalists on the internet was found to contain sodium perborate. which is banned from being used in cosmetics, as it has been linked to birth defects and fertility problems.

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