Is teeth whitening at a beauty salon legal?

With the increase of non-surgical cosmetic treatments, more procedures, such as teeth whitening, are being offered on the high street in beauty salons and spas.  But is this safe or, indeed, legal?

Many beauty salons offer this service alongside their tanning, nail or semi-permanent makeup options as a way to provide the ‘whole package’ in terms of achieving cosmetic perfection; however, teeth whitening by anyone other than a General Dental Council (GDC) registered professional is illegal.

What is the law regarding teeth whitening?

In 2013, the Cosmetic Products regulations were amended to state that any product releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide should not be made directly available to the consumer, other than through treatment by a registered dentist or appropriate GDC registered professional. The GDC also noted that breach of these regulations is a criminal offence. You can read the GDC position statement on teeth whitening here.

Teeth whitening and UK law

In the UK, teeth whitening comes under the scope of practice of ‘dentistry’, which is regulated by law. Dentistry must only be carried out by dental professionals who are registered with the GDC, so any person offering teeth whitening using the stated percentages of hydrogen peroxide can be prosecuted by Trading Standards and the Health and Safety Executive, the GDC may also press for this action and work alongside these regulatory bodies. Read the GENERAL DENTAL COUNCIL’S POLICY STATEMENT ON ENFORCEMENT OF DENTISTS ACT OFFENCES here.

To find out if the person or company providing teeth whitening is registered, please visit the GDC register and search for their name.

Why is teeth whitening in a beauty salon a problem?

For the teeth to be whitened, you need to have a whitening gel placed in contact with them, which needs to be of sufficient strength to bleach the teeth. Anything less than 0.1% released hydrogen peroxide probably won’t work.

The problem with this strength of released hydrogen peroxide is that it can also damage the delicate gum area. Whenever your dentist undertakes teeth whitening they will look at the surrounding gum to ensure that it is not already inflamed and is healthy enough to accept the teeth whitening trays.

If the whitening gel is left in contact with the gums for any extended period severe damage and burns can result.

Image credit northsidedentalcare.net

The trays which hold the whitening gel are also precision made. Your dental professional will have had additional training in understanding where these trays should fit the tightest. Manufacturing these trays might seem like a simple process, but is in fact a precision procedure. Cutting corners and reducing costs may result in a poor-quality fit, which means that the whitening gel might leech onto the delicate and sensitive gum area.

For more information about safe teeth whitening and to read articles about non-dental professionals who have been prosecuted for teeth whitening, please visit the Teeth Whitening Information Group website:

How to safely whiten teeth

There are many websites which suggest using things like coconut oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar and even neat hydrogen peroxide (bleach) to whiten your teeth. These range from ridiculous things that simply don’t work through to things which are dangerous!

Follow our five top tips to whiten teeth and you won’t go wrong.

  • Use a fluoride mouthwash after eating.
  • Use a whitening toothpaste.
  • Use a whitening mouthwash
  • Clean teeth daily so that stains don’t build up.
  • Visit your dentist and ask about teeth whitening.

What is the best way to get white teeth?

The best way to whiten your teeth is to visit your dentist, because:

  1. cross infection control procedures are monitored and enforced;
  2. the whitening gel is the strength which will actually whiten the teeth and as such can only be prescribed by a dentist;
  3. the whitening gel is not so strong that it will cause burns to the soft gum tissue;
  4. you can control how white your teeth go by removing the whitening tray and gel;
  5. your dentist will ensure that your teeth and gums are in a healthy enough state to withstand the whitening process;
  6. if you have any unforeseen problems, you have a dental professional that will be able to help.

While it may seem like dentists are trying to keep all of the teeth whitening treatments and money for themselves, the reason that teeth whitening should only be done by a dentist is for your health and safety. The GDC is not run to look after dentists, it is run to look after your safety as a patient and protect you from any unscrupulous practice such as teeth whitening at beauty salons.