Public want tooth whitening by dentists only

An independent poll on tooth whitening reveals for the first time ever in the UK the public’s attitudes to tooth whitening and public safety.

The survey was carried out by dental regulators, the General Dental Council (GDC), and shows that more than 80% of the 1,021 adults polled thought tooth whitening should only ever be carried out by a dental professional.

The GDC believes tooth whitening should always be carried out by registered, trained and qualified dental professionals.

This poll shows that the public support this – with 86% of those surveyed agreeing that tooth whitening should be carried out by registered, trained and qualified dental professionals and with 89% of those who have had (or planned to have) tooth whitening in agreement with this.

Just 4% of the public and 6% of those who had tooth whitening (or planned to have it) disagreed.

These new findings also reveal that many of the public support the GDC’s views with 75% of those polled thinking the GDC should prosecute anyone practising tooth whitening illegally.

In March in the first case of its kind, the GDC successfully prosecuted a clinic’s boss for ‘ilegally’ performing tooth whitening, warning it will bring similar proceedings in the future.

Paul Hill, director of PW Healthcare Consulting Limited, pleaded guilty to four offences, including practising dentistry while not registered as a dentist or dental care professional between 2 October 2010 and 11 March 2011.

He was ordered to pay a total of £6,265 in fines and costs, and PW Healthcare Consulting Limited, which trades nationally as Style Smile Clinics, was ordered to pay a total of £6,765. The amounts included costs of £5,500 for the GDC.

The GDC launched the case after it received hundreds of complaints from members of the public and dental professionals about tooth whitening treatment which focus on the risk to patient safety from poor quality tooth whitening being carried out by untrained or poorly trained staff and by individuals who are not registered dental professionals.

Charges relating to two other people and one other company have been adjourned until 18 May.

Chief executive and registrar of the GDC, Evlynne Gilvarry, said at the time of the prosecution: ‘This case has significant implications for the dental profession and for public protection. The General Dental Council will now consider its position carefully with regards to the hundreds of other complaints about the illegal practice of dentistry that it has received.

‘We are concerned about the risk to the public posed by such potentially hazardous treatment being provided by people without the training and qualifications necessary for registration as a dental professional.’

The GDC’s view is supported by the Department of Health, that says tooth whitening should be performed by a suitably trained and competent dentist or dental care professional.

Thousands of people have their teeth whitened every year in high streets and shopping centres, by staff with no formal dental training.

Of those polled, 47% would decide to get tooth whitening done based on a referral by a dentist of dental care professional; 42% would follow the guidance of an advert/the internet/media or other, and 26% would go on personal recommendation.

Eight out of 10 of those people who had tooth whitening in the last 12 months, or who planned to have it in the next 12 months, would choose to have it done at a dental surgery.

However, one in five would choose a beauty clinic, salon or other location, or a home tooth whitening kit.

Over the last few years, the GDC has received hundreds of complaints from the public and dental professionals about tooth whitening which focus on the risk to patient safety from poor quality tooth whitening being carried out by untrained or poorly trained staff.

Gary Dickenson of Discus Dental, the company that developed and markets the Zoom! whitening system, said: ‘This is great news. Our dentists tell us all the time that people are coming to them with burns to their gums or discoloured teeth after they’ve had tooth whitening in the local hairdressing salon or beauty clinic.

‘We have been campaigning for a long time to have these places shut down, so we welcome the move by the GDC to clampdown on this ilegal tooth whitening.’

Evlynne Gilvarry this week spoke on the topic on BBC News, explaining that the GDC is receiving complaints from people suffering from burning gums, sensitivity and damaged enamel after using some services in high streets and shopping centres.

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