Cardiff Council’s Trading Standards is advising potential customers not to have their teeth whitened unless a dentist has assessed whether such treatment is right for them. Also, while tooth whitening can improve the appearance of natural teeth, it is important that people are fully aware of what to expect and how it can be conducted safely.
The popularity of teeth-whitening has increased tenfold in the past five years and at least 100,000 people have some form of treatment every year. However, there is particular concern over the dangers relating to the supply of illegal tooth whitening products both for use at home and the use of such products by people who are not registered with the General Dental Council.
Tooth whitening products contain bleach and should be used with caution. It is illegal, for example, to supply products which contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. Cardiff Trading Standards has successfully prosecuted one company for selling a home tooth whitening kit containing over 10% hydrogen peroxide and there have been reported cases of tooth whitening kits containing 30% hydrogen peroxide.
Other “bleaching” products such as sodium perborate and chlorine dioxide are being used by some lay people. These products are unsafe, often very acidic and their use is strongly discouraged.
Using too much bleach poses a real threat of permanent damage to a person’s health; tooth enamel may be damaged, and people can suffer prolonged and increased tooth sensitivity. Indeed, it’s possible to damage the nerve enough to require root canal therapy. Also, since the bleaching trays are not custom-fitted, the uneven distribution of bleach may cause spotting.
Furthermore, despite the widespread availability of products, most consumers are unaware that tooth whitening may only lawfully be provided by those who are registered dental professionals; specifically dentists, or dental hygienists or dental therapists working to a dentist’s prescription.
Provision by lay people is unlikely to be done in the controlled surroundings of a dental surgery, sometimes being done in beauty “parlours”, open areas in shopping centres or even in peoples own homes.