Illegal Teeth Whitening Up 26% in the United Kingdom

Dentistry Today


The Oral Health Foundation (OHF) is advising people to avoid having dental treatment outside of the dental office following a BBC report on the rise of illegal teeth whitening procedures, which have risen by 26% in the past year in the United Kingdom. 

Despite the treatment being offered in beauty salons and kiosks across the UK, teeth whitening can only legally be carried out by a trained dental professional such as a dentist or hygienist. Poor treatment, the OHF says, can result in severe and lasting health consequences. 

“While cosmetic treatments like tooth whitening and orthodontics may seem like relatively easy procedures, they are quite the opposite. These are medical procedures and should only ever be carried out by a dental professional,” said Dr. Ben Atkins, OHF president. 

“The potential repercussions of having these treatments by a nontrained dental professional can be extremely dangerous. There could be a greater risk of infection and cross contamination, as well as damage to the gums, mouth, and even the jaw,” said Atkins. 

“These are the kind of consequences that last a lifetime, cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and are highly expensive to correct,” said Atkins. “Never gamble with your health. Always see a trained and qualified professional for dental treatment of any kind.” 

The BBC investigation into illegal tooth whitening procedures has uncovered several companies offering training to unknowing beauticians. Many such courses only run a few hours, with one beauty school claiming to have trained thousands of candidates, providing fake qualifications. 

The General Dental Council said that it launched 126 prosecutions against illegal teeth whiteners since 2015. It lacks the powers to prosecute those performing the training as exposed by the BBC. 

“I may as well have burnt the money I spent. I was struggling as a beautician as it was, and I nearly went bankrupt,” said one beautician. “I think as a direct result I lost all my confidence. I went through anxiety and suffered depression. It’s disgusting people like me are being misled.” 

“Having cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening conducted cheaply and quickly isn’t as consumer savvy as many are led to believe. The lasting impact of having treatment done by someone who isn’t qualified can be devastating,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, OHF chief executive.

“Dentistry is not something that can be picked up in hours, days, or months. The chemicals used to whiten teeth are toxic and, if not used safely, can cause permanent damage to teeth and gums,” said Carter.

“There is a lot that can go wrong in dentistry, and professionals are the only ones who are suitably trained to make these potential risks less likely and deal with any issues in a suitable and timely manner should they occur,” said Carter. 

“Beauticians across the UK must be made aware that conducting teeth whitening is illegal and that by doing so they are putting lives at risk,” said Carter. 

The OHF offers more information about safe teeth whitening online.

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