Tooth whitening prosecutions

Should trainers be prosecuted for illegal tooth whitening, Michael Watson asks

Are the sanctions for undertaking tooth whitening by non-dentists tough enough, Michael Watson asks.

From time to time the General Dental Council (GDC) issues press releases telling of its success in prosecuting some unregistered ‘tooth whitener’, often working in a beauty salon.

The latest such instance came from Redditch in the West Midlands, where Sally Commander carried out illegal tooth whitening on two people at Imogen’s Hair and Beauty Salon.

She was given a conditional discharge for three years by Worcester Magistrates’ Court, ordered to pay each victim £100 compensation and pay £2,000 towards GDC’s costs.

These cases are duly reported in the local papers, but largely unreported and not commented on in the dental press.

I want to comment on this case, not because it was in any way remarkable, but for the rather perverse reason that it was so mundane.

Whitening training

The first thing to be said is that, as is common, the beautician had been trained to use a whitening system, in this case by a company called ‘Beaming White’.

Beaming White appears to be a US company and its website says: ‘Ever since tooth whitening was determined to be a cosmetic procedure, not a dental procedure…’

This may be true in the USA, but not in the UK or indeed in the EU.

As the GDC said of this case: ‘While people may have received training, tooth whitening is still a practice of dentistry and must only be carried out by dental professionals who are registered with us.’

The GDC can only prosecute the ‘tooth whiteners’ not those who train them or supply the materials.

Whitening products

On a more positive note we also learned last week that Trading Standards in Warwickshire had seized teeth whitening products as part of a 10-month operation.

It was reported that more than 15,000 dangerous goods, with a total value of over £100,000 and some containing high levels of hydrogen peroxide, had been stopped from making it into the hands of consumers in their area.

All the products seized will be destroyed and importers will not be compensated for their loss by enforcement bodies.

The GDC is undoubtedly making progress for which both dentists and patients should be grateful.

But I do wonder how big a problem this is across the country and whether the sanctions, such as being bound not to undertake tooth whitening for three years, are really strong enough.

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