TEETH WHITENING & LEGISLATION – DO YOU KNOW THE FACTS? YOU COULD BE PROSECUTED
Although teeth whitening was ruled an illegal treatment for the services of non-medical professionals back in 2016, there still remains some confusion over the legislation surrounding teeth whitening. Some clinicians still believe that it is legal to perform this service if the client places the teeth trays in their own mouth and if peroxide is kept under a 0.1% strength; this unfortunately is not accurate.
Aestech offer teeth whitening (for model training days), training and equipment but will only provide this training to qualified dental professionals and treatment under the supervision of a qualified dentist and here is the reason why:
THE BLEACHING PRODUCTS
The law surrounding tooth whitening (the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013) states that it is illegal for tooth whitening products which contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or for any associated products which release greater than 6% hydrogen peroxide to be supplied or administered for cosmetic purposes. The EU Cosmetics Regulations allow the use of hydrogen peroxide and other compounds or mixtures that release hydrogen peroxide, including carbamide peroxide and zinc peroxide to be used for tooth whitening.
The maximum concentration that may be used is 6% present or released. It is generally accepted that 10% carbamide peroxide content would yield a maximum of 3.6% hydrogen peroxide. Thus, the commonly used products containing 16% carbamide peroxide are allowed as they would normally release less than 6% hydrogen peroxide.
Tooth whitening products containing or releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide can only be sold to dental practitioners. It could be interpreted as a breach of the Regulations if a dentist (or a practice) sold tooth whitening products containing or releasing more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide to someone other than a patient undergoing a cycle of tooth whitening treatment. For each cycle of use, the first use can only be carried out by dental practitioners or under their direct supervision if an equivalent level of safety is ensured as for example by a trained hygienist, therapist or clinical technician. Clinicians should ensure contemporaneous and accurate records of the initial appointment including details of instructions and consent. After the first cycle of use, the product may be provided by the dental practitioner to the consumer to complete the cycle of use.
Products containing or releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide cannot be used on any person under 18 years of age except where such use is intended wholly for the purpose of treating or preventing disease. Practitioners need to exercise caution in the rare cases of tooth whitening for under 18’s. Indemnity organisations should be consulted and clear consent and involvement of parents are essential. The maximum penalty for breaching the Regulations is a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding six months.
The General Dental Council’s Position Statement on Tooth Whitening sets out that if it receives information or a complaint that a registrant is using a product in excess of 6%, in breach of the Regulations, the registrant may face fitness to practice proceedings and can expect the matter to be referred to the relevant Trading Standards department.
THE TEETH WHITENING SERVICE
Carrying out a whitening service (that includes ‘treatment, advice or attendance’) for a client is illegal under British law as the only people who may carry out teeth whitening are registered dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and clinical dental technicians who are working to the prescription of a dentist.
Teeth whitening is not specifically mentioned in the Dentists Act 1984 and for this reason became a target for some companies operating within the beauty industry.
The General Dental Council, which is responsible for regulating the industry and carries out prosecutions, argued that the service should be restricted to dentists. It won an important legal judgment in 2013 – the case of GDC vs Jamous – where high court judges agreed with its arguments.
Subsequent court cases have further tightened the law – it is now also illegal to offer a service where a therapist hands a client a tray containing a kit for home use, provides instructions to read, hands the client dark glasses, sets a timer or places a ‘laser’ device near clients’ teeth or to remove equipment after treatment. These are all considered to fall under the restriction in the Dentists Act that prevents anyone who is not a dentist from giving ‘treatment, advice or attendance’.
In some good news for therapists, a county court ordered Megawhite to refund the cost of a training course that it had sold to a therapist who did not have dental qualifications on the grounds it would have been illegal for her to carry out the treatment. There have been attempts to appeal the decision, but the courts have refused.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL TEETH WHITENING?
The maximum fine has been increased from £5,000 to an unlimited amount. In 2015 the GDC carried out 35 prosecutions, with the figure for the first three months of 2016 standing at seven.