Watch Out For Illegal Teeth Whitening!

Dr Melisha Govender looks at how some questionable establishments are trying to get around the law

There was a time, not so long ago, when you could simply pop into a salon on the high street and have your teeth whitened. Whilst some of these places probably offered this treatment with the best of intentions and with the safety of the patient in mind, many certainly did not. Problems with painful teeth and other health issues prompted the law to change in recent years, and now, it is only legal for teeth whitening treatments to be offered by suitably qualified dental staff within an appropriate environment.

Although there may be a few ‘backstreet’ operations still offering this treatment, which should definitely be avoided, and which are illegal, there appears to be a trend towards a new type of operation that is, technically at least, just about operating within the law. Some of these have recently been ‘endorsed’ by reality TV stars, gaining them publicity.

How do they operate?

It is illegal to perform a teeth whitening procedure on anyone unless you are a qualified practitioner. What is not illegal though, it seems,  is to sell the products that will whiten your teeth. Providing that you do not actually treat the patient, instead allowing them to do so themselves, you may not be breaking the law. What some of these salons offer though, goes much further than simply providing the materials needed to whiten your teeth. Some also now provide places to do so, even offering the special teeth whitening lamps to activate the process. Providing that the patient does all of this themselves, it appears that these salons are ‘probably’ acting within the law as it currently stands.

Why is this a problem?

There are a number of issues arising from this practise; the main one being that there is no medical supervision during the process. A teeth whitening procedure at a practice like The Lodge Dental Suite is perfectly safe, and a number of precautions are taken to ensure that it remains so.

At our Cheshunt dental practice, patients are given a thorough oral health examination before any treatment is carried out. This is to check for any problems such as decay or gingivitis. Any problems found will need to be treated before the whitening treatment is started. Because most of these salons have no dental experience, patients who use them, may well find that any problems they have will go undetected, potentially causing pain and future problems following the treatment.

One of the most common problems following a whitening treatment, where any issues have previously not been detected, is increased tooth sensitivity. Especially where the enamel on your teeth is thin anyway, you may find that you are in some significant discomfort following a treatment. There is also a real risk that the strength of the solution used will be much stronger than is recommended, making the problem much worse.

Whitening your teeth safely

At The Lodge Dental Suite, we are proud to offer a safe and effective teeth whitening treatment. Even with this though, we will take extra precautions to make sure our patients have the best experience and results possible. We offer both an ‘in house’ and ‘at home’ whitening product, but before any of these are offered to patients, we will first of all thoroughly inspect your teeth and gums and treat any problems before we proceed.

If you have our ‘in house’ whitening treatment, a popular choice as it only takes around one hour; we will provide protection for your gums to prevent the bleaching liquid from coming into contact with them, as this may cause burning. Our staff will also be on hand to check that everything is OK during the procedure. Our ‘at home’ kits use a custom made mouthguard into which the whitening gel is placed. These will be made from impressions that we take of your teeth and not only will this provide comfort, but also reduces the risk of any spillage. The same can not be said for any ‘one size fits all’ mouthguards provided by a high street whitening salon.

Is cost a factor?

Although teeth whitening treatments offered by dentists are one of the most affordable cosmetic procedures available, the prices are likely to be undercut by the type of salon mentioned above, with some offering the treatment for as little as £50. We do appreciate that cost can be a factor for some people, but we don’t believe that risking your teeth and being in significant discomfort is worth saving a few pounds for. If finance is an issue, we encourage you to talk to us about using one of our finance plans, rather than face the dangers of an unregulated whitening treatment. We can help you to spread the cost and make sure that you have a safe and successful outcome.

If your teeth are stained or discoloured and you would like to find out more about how myself and my team can help to whiten them, an initial consultation can be arranged to discuss this. You can book your appointment by calling one of our receptionists on 01992 643388. We look forward to seeing you!

Dr Melisha Govender is a cosmetic dentist at The Lodge Dental Suite (GDC 75046).