The potential dangers of a looking for a ‘whiter smile’ in 2020

A specialist dental negligence claim firm has issued a warning to anyone who is considering opting for teeth whitening treatments in 2020.

Under current UK legislation, if you’re having tooth whitening treatments at a clinic, only qualified and registered dental professionals can carry them out – not beauty salons or unregistered ‘smile clinics’. Several high-profile prosecutions have taken place in recent years where some unregistered clinics or staff have carried out these procedures illegally.

Home teeth whitening kits, which you can buy at most high street pharmacies, contain chemicals in much weaker doses than professional treatments but can still damage your teeth or gums in some cases. Home kits that are bought online or from other sources may contain dangerously high levels of bleach, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which do not meet current UK and EU regulations. These kits can cost anywhere upward of £5 per pack; significantly less than professional teeth whitening treatments, which people can pay anywhere between £150 and £1,500 for, depending on the products and methods used. Tooth whitening procedures are not available on the NHS as they are considered to be purely cosmetic treatments.

Not everyone is suited to having tooth whitening treatments; those with weak enamel, or who have crowns or veneers, are not recommended to use whitening treatments at all, either because the products will be completely ineffective or because they risk causing permanent damage to their teeth.

Dental professionals are legally able to use products for tooth whitening which contain up to 6% hydrogen peroxide. Home kits sold legally in the UK must have a strength of no more than 0.1% of this chemical, so professional treatments can be up to 60x times stronger than over-the-counter alternatives.

Christopher Dean, a qualified dentist and director at the Dental Law Partnership, said:

“It’s understandable that if people aren’t happy with the way their teeth look, they might be tempted to seek whitening treatments. This might be something people are thinking about more at the moment; wanting a fresh start and a new look in 2020. However, we have seen that when it goes wrong, patients can be left with burned and blistered gums, along with aching teeth that have had layers of protective enamel permanently stripped away, and some people end up with permanent damage. The sad reality for many people is that even after all of this, often their teeth look no whiter anyway, or the results are very short-lived.”

For those who do choose to undergo teeth whitening treatment from their dentist or at a licensed clinic, Dean’s advice is to ensure they talk it through with their dentist beforehand and make sure that the risks are fully explained to them before the procedure goes ahead.

“When a dental professional is carrying out this type of treatment, they have a duty of care to their patient to ensure they properly assess whether it’s a suitable procedure for them to have in the first place and they need to talk to the patient about the risks involved. They also need to make sure the treatments they provide are up to the very high standards expected. A mistake or act of negligence could have very damaging consequences for the patient, and they are placing their trust in the hands of a dental professional, who should not be letting them down.”