Authorities are now clamping down on those carrying out tooth whitening illegally, and courts are increasing the severity of the fines and convictions being handed out.
One of the latest criminal convictions saw a former reality TV star, Chelsey Harwood, being ordered to pay more than £11k by Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after being found guilty of illegal tooth whitening.
In a similar case, business owner, Harjeet Jolly, was ordered to pay more than £9,000 by Derby Magistrates’ Court for being found guilty of the same charges.
By law, tooth whitening should only be carried out by a qualified dental professional.
Lead coordinator of the Tooth Whitening Information Group, Karen Coates, says the temptation to draw in new clients by offering the procedure could end up costing beauty therapists their livelihood, jeopardise their future, as well as give them a criminal record.
Mrs Coates says: “The recent prosecutions show that offering illegal tooth whitening does not pay and can leave beauty therapists counting the cost of a substantial fine, as well as a criminal record.
“The fines handed out by courts following prosecutions by the regulator (the General Dental Council) are unlimited and have been increasing in line with the severity of the issue. Every single prosecution brought against illegal tooth whitening providers has been successful, so if people are caught, the consequences are likely to be extremely serious.
“In the wrong hands, tooth whitening can cause major damage to the mouth, leaving patients with severe burns and in excruciating pain.
“In the United Kingdom, only qualified dental professionals can carry out tooth whitening procedure. The message is simple, if you are not a dental professional it is illegal to offer tooth whitening and you will be caught.”
Under a European Council directive, tooth whitening products containing or releasing above 0.1% hydrogen peroxide can only be sold to a registered dental professional offering the treatment in their practice.
Tooth whitening can only be given to a person after 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 and the first use is from a dental practitioner or under their direct supervision by a dental hygienist or dental therapist.
Anybody who is not a registered dental professional and is offering tooth whitening treatment using hydrogen peroxide above 0.1% is breaking the law and liable for prosecution.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says many of the problems with unsafe tooth whitening come from those carrying out the treatment being unaware that it is illegal for them to do so.
Dr Carter says: “Many beauty professionals will undergo a brief ‘training period’ with an unscrupulous company and then led to believe they are qualified to carry out tooth whitening. This is false and can be significantly dangerous to consumers and lead the providers facing the severe legal consequences.
“Ignorance in this case in not a valid excuse. By carrying out these treatments beauty therapists are breaking the law and will be forced to face the penalties. Fines are unlimited, so it can have serious financial and professional implications.”
In recent years, tooth whitening has become an increasingly accessible and affordable cosmetic treatment for those looking to improve their appearance.
“There are a number of reasons why people might get their teeth whitened,” adds Dr Carter.
“Everyone is different; and just as our hair and skin colour vary, so do our teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and they become more discoloured as we get older. If anybody is looking to investigate getting their teeth whitened, it is really important they have it done in safe way, by a qualified dental professional.”
If you know of anybody performing illegal tooth whitening or have had a treatment that was carried out by someone who is not a registered dental professional, you can report it on the Tooth Whitening Information Group’s website at www.safetoothwhitening.org.