News last week that an ‘illegal tooth whitener’, to use the General Dental Council’s (GDC) phrase, had been fined £15,000 made me sit up.
The largest fine I have heard of before this was one of £5,000, which magistrates said was in a particularly serious case with ‘significant aggravating features’.
The accused, Wayne Roberts, who did not attend court, runs the Caldy Clinics in Wirral and Liverpool.
The clinic’s website says: 'We distribute legal self-administered teeth whitening products.'
Despite this, Mr Roberts was found guilty (in his absence) at Wirral Magistrates' Court of two offences of tooth whitening and one of the unlawful use of a title, namely 'dental technician'.
The GDC said that Mr Roberts is linked to the provision of illegal tooth whitening using the Megawhite brand of products.
So what has Megawhite said about the legality of using its products, by someone who is not a dentist?
From its website FAQs: ‘Do I need to be a dentist to sell Megawhite? No. Our system is a retail teeth whitening product that is self-administered by your customers. You do not need any dental experience to sell this product, just a desire for financial gain.’
But according to the GDC: ‘By law, only dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and clinical dental technicians (working to the prescription of a dentist) can carry out tooth whitening.’
And on the basis of that statement, the GDC secured a conviction and hefty fine in the Wirral Magistrates' Court.
I am not a lawyer, but the situation does not seem to be as clear cut as has been made out.
It is time that someone sorted this out for the sake of the patients who need confidence in whatever system is offered.