Jump in illegal tooth whitening cases over the last year
Illegal tooth whitening reports jumped 26% last year, according to figures from the General Dental Council (GDC).
The GDC states tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry and can only be carried out by registered dental professionals.
One beauty school has provided thousands of illegitimate qualifications, the BBC reports.
‘When things go wrong in dentistry, they can really go wrong,’ Dr Ben Atkins, president of the Oral Health Foundation, said.
‘I’ve been that dentist with the full back up service when the patient’s had that heart attack.
‘It is a catastrophe for the patient and the person who’s been trained and told it’s legal to do it.’
Illegal tooth whitening cases
The GDC received 732 reports of illegal tooth whitening last year, a jump from 582 cases in 2018.
The dental regulator claims it has launched 126 prosecutions against those practising illegal tooth whitening since 2015.
Despite a jump last year, figures actually show reports made to the GDC for illegal tooth whitening were higher in 2016.
‘Illegal whitening is now running rampant across the UK,’ British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said.
‘While authorities are doing what they can it’s vital that the public understand the risks.
‘We know that sham teeth whitening schools exploit the ignorance of beauticians and others who are unaware that they could end up in a criminal court.
‘Not just that, these untrained operators can permanently damage your teeth and gums and can’t provide help if something goes wrong.
‘The public needs to be aware that fly-by-nights with a few hours online training can cause lasting damage to your teeth and gums and can’t help you when something goes wrong.
‘If you put yourself in the hands of unqualified individuals armed with unsafe chemicals then you are gambling with your health.
‘For safe, effective whitening visit your dentist.’
A BBC investigation uncovered several companies offering fraudulent tooth whitening qualifications for just a few hours training.
The British Dental Association (BDA) says ‘sham’ schools prey ‘on vulnerabilities of beauticians and others’.
The GDC, however, lacks the powers to prosecute those performing illegal training for whitening.
‘Handing an individual a tooth whitening tray and advising them on application, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of “advice or attendance”,’ a GDC spokesperson said.
‘In those circumstances this is a criminal offence.’
Over 1,000 dentists signed a letter highlighting the risks associated with illegal teeth whitening and straightening products.
The letter points to a lack of investment in dentistry leaving the public ‘exposed to risks’.
‘We’ve seen a big increase in straightening in the last year,’ Dr Tony Kilcoyne, a dentist on the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, said.
‘Whitening has been increasingly popular for a few years, with Instagram and social media making people like the idea more.
‘The problem is people are doing this illegally, by beauticians, hairdressers, or buying kits online.
‘This can result in major damage – to the bones, the roots, the nerves.
‘We are seeing more patients coming to us as a result of this.’