There were 18 successful convictions for dangerous teeth whitening in a 12-month period, official figures show.
Spas and salons were successfully prosecuted at only 12 magistrates’ courts around the country, despite growing concern over the activities of ‘rogue’ beauticians.
Ministers were warned this month that tens of thousands of dangerous teeth whitening products are being seized by local authorities – some with 300 times the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide.
The Local Government Association – while calling for tougher penalties – said this would be like ‘brushing with bleach’ and could cause blistering, burns and other damage.
In response, the government would not say whether it planned tougher action on illegal teeth whitening, but insisted it was helping make people aware of the dangers.
Now the conviction statistics have been released by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), an arms-length agency of the Ministry of Justice.
In 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, only 12 courts in England saw convictions, under section 38 of the 1984 Dentists Act.
They were; Plymouth District, City of London, Stratford, Thames, Westminster, Maidstone, Lancaster, Wirral, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield and Milton Keynes.
The figures are for the first year following a landmark legal victory for the General Dental Council (GDC), which established that anyone performing bleaching is carrying out dentistry.
At the time, Sir Paul Beresford, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on dentistry, hailed the court decision as leaving rogue beauticians with ‘nowhere to hide’.
It was hoped it would lead to many more prosecutions, to cut down the lucrative high-street industry – after Sir Paul criticised the GDC for being ‘remarkably slow in taking action’.
The British Dental Bleaching Society also pledged to make it easier for dentists to report cases of damage from illegal whitening on its website, evidence that would be passed on to the GDC.
However, the GDC has protested that it can only prosecute the ‘tooth whiteners’ not those who train them or supply the materials.
An HMCTS spokesman said: ‘In 2014, there were 18 convictions in England for carrying out tooth whitening illegally under section 38 of the 1984 Dentists Act.’
The LGA highlighted how some of the confiscated kits contained more than 33% hydrogen peroxide – far above the legal limits of 0.1% for public use, or 6% for professionals.
In response the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: ‘We urge people to only use qualified professionals when undergoing this procedure.’