GDC fails to obtain ‘whitening’ conviction

GDC fails to obtain ‘whitening’ conviction

The GDC has lost a case against Gemma Salter, a beauty salon owner accused of offering an illegal teeth whitening service who has been cleared. The case against her was dismissed when it was found two retired detectives who were investigating her had failed to caution her when they should have done. After the case Mrs Salter said: “All I do is sell a product – and certainly do not do any dentistry.”

The General Dental Council brought the prosecution against Gemma Salter, 33, who runs the Hair Shop in Colwyn Bay. When the investigators visited her, they failed to put to her "significant statements" for a response, therefore depriving her of an early opportunity to comment on the allegations against her. That meant the investigators had fallen foul of regulations in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

Barrister for the GDC Sebastian Winnett said the two investigators were "professional people doing a fair job". He said it was illegal to carry out teeth whitening when not a dentist or dental care professional. This was because there were a number of risks, such as products producing a chemical reaction and damaging the teeth, or other adverse effects. Enhanced duties of care were involved.

Giving evidence, investigator Shareen Shah said she made an appointment under an assumed name by Facebook and visited the salon last November. Mrs Salter told her that “self-adminstering” with a gel was involved and advised that afterwards there should be no smoking for 24 hours and a chicken and rice diet should be followed. She alleged that she was told the whitening would be in three stages, with teeth gel applied to a mouth guard and then a laser light shone into the mouth. She and Stephen White, the other investigator, had then identified themselves as being from the GDC. A reduced price of £60 had been quoted.

Under cross-examination by defence barrister Matthew McDonagh, Miss Shah said the GDC was "keen to protect the public," adding: "She said it was a self-administered, non-peroxide, and also (talked) about safety of the gel if swallowed. She said she would fill the mouth guard and direct the light to my mouth. She said she and her colleague had done a few of these. It’s when she offers the advice and then says she would direct the light. It’s the two things that make a criminal offence."

The case was dismissed and defence costs were awarded from central funds. After the case Mrs Salter, who has a young child, said: “What has been claimed about me is wrong. I’m so relieved by the outcome because my reputation was at stake. I still offer teeth whitening but all I do is sell a product – and certainly do not do any dentistry.”

Sean Anderson of the firm Naturawhite, who attended the hearing,  issued a statement afterwards. He said: “In recent years Naturawhite has encountered a huge resistance to discourage individuals, mainly beauty salons, wishing to make a living vending a single product. Naturawhite came to the defence of their customer, Gemma Salter,  with their legal team, and proved that teeth whitening can be carried out legally if you do not give advice while selling the product. Naturawhite have proved this in Scottish law in 2017 and now again in English law.”

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