Who can whiten teeth in the USA?

The General Dental Council (GDC) has come out strongly to say that, in the UK, tooth whitening is dentistry and thus can only be undertaken by registered dental professionals.

It has launched a campaign to raise awareness of safety issues and produced and produced a leaflet for the public.
The GDC has warned the public against tooth whitening conducted illegally by unregulated persons.

Earlier this year, it successfully prosecuted someone for performing tooth whitening while unregistered.

Last year, it carried out research which found that 8 out of 10 people choose to have tooth whitening done at a dental surgery and think it should only be carried out by registered, trained and qualified dental professionals.
The situation in the USA is very different and more confused.

Last month, the Connecticut State Dental Commission ruled that tooth whitening is dentistry and can no longer be performed at spas, salons, and shopping malls unless it is done under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

But more recently, a judge ruled against the New Jersey Dental Association in its legal battle against the colourfully named ‘Beach Bum Tanning’, a chain of tanning salons that was also offering teeth whitening.

North Carolina’s dental board has been trying to prevent non-dentists from providing teeth-whitening services in the State.

However, the US Federal Trade Commission has ruled that this constitutes ‘an illegal anti-competitive conspiracy’.

The judge concluded that concluded it was ‘unreasonable restraint of trade and an unfair method of competition’.

He said the dental board lacked the authority to order non-dentists to discontinue providing teeth-whitening goods or services.

The American Dental Association (ADA), like the BDA, believes that tooth whitening constitutes the practice of dentistry and ‘any non-dentist engaging in such activity is committing the unlicensed practice of dentistry’.

It has urged state dental societies to support this view.

The ADA has not commented on the recent ruling which, in effect, prevent local dental associations taking any action.

This side of ‘the pond’ the British Dental Association (BDA) has written to the GDC to ask them to take action, following an advertisement placed recently by the company Starsmile, who are offering whitening treatments that would not be undertaken by dentists but by fully-trained technicians.

Whether the GDC takes action remains to be seen, but at least we can be sure that, unlike in the USA, the law is on its side.

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