Just in case you missed the 6 o’clock BBC news today…

“A number of beauticians in London are performing illegal teeth-whitening procedures, which can leave patients in crippling pain if they go wrong.”


To start, hydrogen peroxide, although a fairly common product that has been used by people for years as a disinfectant/antiseptic, is a highly reactive chemical. Chemically, hydrogen peroxide is simply water with an extra oxygen molecule (H2O2). Although very close to water, please do not drink it! Just take this as an interesting fact.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used in a variety of ways, but in dentistry, it is generally in the areas of teeth whitening, as it is a bleaching agent.

In 2013, the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013, commonly known as the “EU Cosmetics Regulation”, was introduced, replacing the Cosmetic Products (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

In this new legislation, the law changed around the hydrogen peroxide levels in teeth whitening. Pre-2013, in-surgery contained hydrogen peroxide levels of, maximum, 37%. However, after thorough research into the side effects of this chemical, the law changed and, now, in-surgery tooth whitening can only released between 0.1% and 6%.

The law, however, remains unchanged. It continues to state that tooth whitening products containing or releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide should not be made directly available to the consumer. These levels are restricted so that they are administered through treatment by professionals:

  • A registered dentist; or
  • A dental hygienist or dental therapist or clinical dental technicians working to a dentist’s prescription

As per the General Dental Council’s regulations, we like to remind our patients that:

  • Tooth whitening containing or releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide cannot be used on any person under the age of 18, unless certain medical exceptions apply; and
  • You can find products with whitening effects in the market (i.e. mouth rinse, tooth paste, and over-the-counter tooth whitening and bleaching products). However, they will only contain and release less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide.

Wherever you go for your in-surgery tooth whitening session, please ensure you are receiving the best available service and attention you deserve:

  • An appropriate clinical examination is to be carried out in order to ensure that there are no risk factors or any other oral pathology concerns;
  • Exposure to these products should be limited to ensure that the products are only used as intended in terms of frequency and duration of application; and
  • Your dentist, or any other party working to a dentist’s prescription, is dedicated and willing to answer any concerns you may have.

Please, never compromise your health and wellbeing on finding a “good deal” or a “cheaper prices elsewhere”. As the Head of Illegal Practice from the General Dental Council stated: “If you’re seeing someone on the high street that’s attended a one day course and putting that into perspective – dentists attend a five-year training programme in order to qualify – you’re putting yourself in harm’s way.”

Should you ever have the misfortune of being treated or coming across someone who is not legally qualified to carry out tooth whitening treatment with levels exceeding 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, please contact either the General Dental Council and/or Trading Standards.

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