Tooth whitening on both sides of the pond

tooth whitening

Michael Watson discusses illegal tooth whitening

Illegal teeth whitening seems to crop up almost every week through a press release from the General Dental Council (GDC) about its on-going pursuit of people illegally whitening.

I shouldn’t complain really; it must be better for the GDC to pursue illegal whiteners, rather than legal (and often innocent) dentists who happen to have a complaint made against them.

It is in line with the GDC’s prime purpose of protecting the public to close down these illegal practitioners.

Also with costs being awarded in successful cases against the individual involved, costs to the GDC and thus to the profession are repaid.

There are signs that the fines are getting larger, and in one case the GDC secured its first prosecution of an illegal tooth whitening training provider.

It also resisted an attempt by a whitener to obtain a judicial review of a landmark decision in May 2013 that whitening constituted the practice of dentistry.

There have been cases where the unqualified whitener has attempted to argue (without success) that they were handing the material and trays to the patients who did the whitening themselves.

Those with long memories will recall some denturists who argued that they were handing the patient an impression tray and material for them to do the honours.

All appears to be going well for those who believe that this is a practice that should be the province of registered dental professionals, not just because this is the law but also for the protection of the public.

However, a small cloud has appeared in the western sky; the US Supreme Court does not appear to hold this view.

It ruled by a six-three majority that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners cannot restrict teeth-whitening work to dentists.

It did this on the grounds basically that the board’s actions were ‘anti-competitive and unfair’ in seeking to stop tooth whitening by beauty salons in shopping malls.

Of course the law in the USA is different and rulings of their Supreme Court have no effect whatsoever in this country.

We should, however, continue to be vigilant that in the UK the demands of the commercial world do not outweigh the need to preserve the health of the public.

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