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TOOTH WHITENING – A Change in the Law

March 17, 2013

Tooth whitening has always been a bit of a government farce. We can take a lot of delight in blaming our own government and the EU (we like doing that, don’t we?). Just to make things clear, tooth whitening was illegal up until 1st Nov 2012. Technically, even dentists weren’t supposed to be doing it! I can hear the general public getting worried, “uh-oh, has it damaged my teeth?” Well the answer is, thankfully, NO! If it was done sensibly and properly!

The legal bit

Tooth whitening is done using two compounds, one is hydrogen peroxide, the other being carbamide peroxide which breaks down to become hydrogen peroxide, so essentially they are both very similar compounds and have very similar effects. Before 1st November 2012 the law stated that 0.1% hydrogen peroxide was the strongest concentration of whitening agent that could be used and this was because the produce classification was changed from a medical compound to a cosmetic one. The problem is that 0.1% hydrogen peroxide will not whiten anything let alone your teeth!

The new law from the EU has been ratified by our government. This new law says is that only those on the dental register may carry out tooth whitening, and that they may only use a concentration up to 6% hydrogen peroxide (this translates to 18% carbamide peroxide).

This is good news and some bad news. Firstly, it makes all teeth whitening by beauticians, shopping centre salons and alleged ‘cowboys’ illegal!

I have seen many teeth ruined by so called ‘tooth whitening specialists’ and I’m glad to say that now it’s clearly banned and not allowed! So the next time you see a smile-salon-spa in a shopping centre or whilst you are at a beauty salon waiting for your massage, ask them if they are on the dental register. If not, call trading standards and report them, as they are breaking the law and potentially putting your life in danger. What would happen if someone had a serious allergic reaction to latex or some other compound in one of these salons? Do you think they are trained in basic life support? Probably not! Similarly, if someone had a reaction the next day or week later, will that pop-up smile-salon-spa still be in the middle of the shopping centre to get advice? Probably not. In addition, all dental practices are regularly assessed for hygiene – not by various government bodies, who assess beauty salons? How many of these salons have steriliser which are able to kill bacteria at a temperature of 134degrees Celsius? None!!!!

Is it bad?

Well, in my opinion, not really. It does limit what dentists can use to whiten teeth, it also seems to limit in-surgery options for whitening discoloured teeth in children. In-fact, tooth whitening in anyone under 18 is illegal and cannot be carried out. This is where my main gripe is. If a 13-year-old girl who has a black front tooth, due to knocking it a few years previously, comes to me wanting the tooth whitened, as she is getting bullied at school. Going by the letter of the law, I cannot whiten this tooth. I can drill the enamel off of it, and place a ceramic crown (which may compromise the longevity of the tooth), but I cannot whiten it! Madness! I think some dentists (and I am in no way recommending this) may still whiten the child’s tooth, and stand by their clinical beliefs that this is in the patient’s best interest.

One very important point is this method and restriction is only applied to EU countries, so in America, China, Australia etc etc etc dentists are able to whiten teeth using the higher (and very affective) concentration of peroxide gel

So, in summary…

Tooth Whitening can ONLY be carried out by dentists and those on the dental register.

Power Whitening such as Zoom! using anything above 6% hydrogen peroxide is now illegal!

Whitening the teeth of those under 18 is now illegal.

Natural Smiles provides Legal tooth whitening to high standards


Thanks for Dr N Parmar for his input in collating this information in an easy to read, simple format

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