Row over whether whitening is dentistry or not

GDC chief executive, Evlynne Gilvarry, has said that tooth whitening is dentistry and thus can only be carried out by dentists or other registrants on BBC Radio 5 live. But this position was opposed by Edward Mills, from the company Smart-Smile, who told the programme: “I have never had a single complaint from a customer”.


The General Dental Council is calling for tougher controls on who is allowed to carry out teeth whitening in the UK. After complaints about poor treatment, the council says teeth whitening is a dental procedure so only dental professionals should administer it. However, teeth-whitening companies say it is a cosmetic not dental process.

GDC chief executive and registrar Evlynne Gilvarry said on the programme: “Over the last few years we have received hundreds of complaints from the public and dental professionals about poor tooth whitening.”

But Edward Mills, from the company Smart-Smile, told 5 Live Breakfast: “I have never had a single complaint from a customer. I welcome further regulation of the industry, but think the GDC should only clamp down on non-dentists who use peroxide-based whitening treatments, and not the chlorine-dioxide treatments, which I use, because they are safe.”

The GDC successfully prosecuted the director of a national chain of tooth-whitening salons in March this year - and has warned it will bring similar proceedings in the future. Its view is supported by the Department of Health, which says tooth whitening should be performed by a suitably trained and competent dentist or dental-care professional.

On its website Smart-Smile claims: ‘Tooth whitening products were confirmed as being cosmetics on 28 June 2001 by the House of Lords. This means that they fall under the EU Cosmetics Directive (implemented in the UK by the UK Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 1996).

The legal definition of a cosmetic product is:- “any substance or preparation intended for placing in contact with the various external part of the human body or with the teeth and mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or principally to cleaning them, perfuming them or protecting them in order to keep them in good condition, change their appearance or correct body odours”

The company concludes: ‘Tooth whitening is therefore a cosmetic procedure and not a dental one and therefore does not fall under the remit of the General Dental Council, however, there are certain practices that could occur during the performance of a treatment which could constitute the practice of dentistry for example the diagnosis of any abnormality present or the suggestion of the use of a certain drug even over the counter drugs.’

Our technicians are clearly trained on what they can and cannot do in the performance of a procedure so as to remain within the law.

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