Illegal Teeth Whitening Treatments On The Rise

Investigation finds that potentially dangerous illegal treatments are up by 26%.

Fear of the dentisteeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures currently available. Its popularity boosted by reality TV programmes such as Love Island, it is also a potentially lucrative market and, as such, is tempting for those looking to make a ‘quick buck’ who do not have the necessary skills, experience or qualifications to perform the treatment.

An investigation for the BBC found that there has been a rise of around 26% in these illegal teeth whitening treatments, many of them in London. There were 732 reports of this to the GDC, with the real figure probably being much higher as these rely on reports that come directly from customers.

This is a worrying sign, and, for patients who opt to have their teeth whitened this way, it may also lead to long term dental or even general health problems.

Is teeth whitening safe?

Before we look at the illegal side of this market, it is important to say that a teeth whitening procedure that is carried out by a dentist registered with the GDC is perfectly safe as is the case with all dentists employed by the Confidental Clinic in Clapham. Patients will be assessed for their suitability and the whitening solution is carefully monitored for safety levels. Patients who have this treatment in this way will have a safe and successful procedure.

Where are the risks?

There are many risks to having this treatment carried out by an unqualified practitioner. Some have been found to be using unsafe strengths of the whitening solution. This may achieve the brilliant white look that some who watch reality shows might like, but it can come at a very high cost, including potentially painful tooth loss.

More common risks are that the teeth are damaged in such a way that they become incredibly sensitive. Even with a safe procedure, a few patients occasionally find that their teeth are a little sensitive for a few days before returning to normal.  Where a much higher strength of solution is used, this sensitivity may be much more severe and also, potentially permanent.

Other risks are burns to the soft tissue, such as the lips and gums, around the teeth. This can be very painful and unsightly for the person concerned.

There is also a very big risk in that most of these practitioners will have had little or no medical training. All dentists are required to undergo a certain level of emergency medical training. Although very rare, the stress of undergoing dental treatment could potentially cause a patient with heart problems to have a heart attack. Although medical backup is essential;  as first responders, we need to know what to do immediately in the rare event that this happens. Without this, the patient’s life could be in danger.

How do they get away with it?

As stated earlier, discovering these practitioners does rely on their customers reporting them. Whilst many high streets had teeth whitening salons before they were made illegal and the procedure only able to be carried out by a GDC qualified dentist, many now operate simply under the generic title of a beauty salon.

Even when they are discovered, there are arguments that they may not technically be breaking the law, although this argument is being challenged. To get around the fact that it is illegal to administer the treatment unless you are a qualified dentist, some of these salons are providing a place to do it and handing the teeth whitening kit to the patient so that they can do it themself whilst being ‘supervised’. It isn’t hard to see where this can go badly wrong and where burns especially, can occur.

We can sometimes forget that our teeth are complicated and sensitive parts of our anatomy, until we suffer from pain because of a toothache or other damage. Teeth need to be looked after and to choose to risk them in this way is foolish, to say the least.

There are two main reasons why people may opt to have their teeth whitened in this type of establishment. Firstly, they may simply be unaware of the risks. Secondly, they might be cheaper. On the first point, we hope that this blog starts to address that. On the finance issue, whilst this might be true, teeth whitening is not expensive so is trying to save a few pounds really worth risking the health of your teeth and gums? We think not.

If you are unhappy with the colour of your teeth, please avoid these places and see one of the cosmetic dental team at the Confidental Clinic instead. By doing this you can have whiter and more attractive teeth in a safe and friendly environment. Please don’t risk your teeth; it just isn’t worth it!

To make an appointment at our Clapham dental clinic, please call us on 020 7801 9060.