​Teeth whitening: the facts

Who can do teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is the practice of dentistry and should only be done by regulated dental professionals.

Anyone who practises dentistry illegally risks being prosecuted by the General Dental Council in the criminal courts.

Dental hygienists and therapists can carry out teeth whitening on the prescription of a dentist if they have the necessary additional skills.

What has the BDA been doing? The legal position

Historically, the legal position in Europe relating to teeth whitening has been confusing, with different interpretations of the EU Directive being applied in different European countries.

In the UK, a House of Lords Judgement in June 2001 confirmed that teeth whitening products were covered by the EU Cosmetics Directive and not the Medical Devices Directive.

Through the Council of European Dentists (CED), we lobbied the European Commission to remove all legal restrictions on dentists so they can carry out procedures in line with accepted clinical practice.

The EU Cosmetics Directive was finally amended in 2011, and the UK Cosmetic Product (Safety) (Amendment) 2012 came into force on 31 October 2012.

What whitening agents can I use?

Products between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide can only be supplied by a dentist and a clinical examination must be undertaken before use.

The UK regulations make no distinction between in-surgery whitening and the provision of home whitening kits. Due to serious concerns regarding the safety of sodium perborate- and chlorine dioxide-based whitening products, these whitening agents should not be used.

Can I treat under 18 year olds?

In May 2014, the General Dental Council updated its position on teeth whitening to state that products containing or releasing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide cannot be used on any person under the age of 18 years except where such use is intended wholly for the purpose of treating or preventing disease.

The BDA recommends consulting your defence organisation before providing any treatment to under 18 year olds.

BDA advice: teeth whitening

A BDA advice sheet is available for members on teeth whitening, covering detailed information on the legal levels of hydrogen peroxide, supply and use, penalties, whitening techniques and unmarked products.

We run CPD events focused on teeth whitening during the year.

The BDA Library holds a wealth of resources on teeth whitening, including books for loan, online ebooks, and a round-up of journal articles and research.

Need more advice or support?

Extra and Expert members can access tailored one-to-one advice by calling the Compliance Team on 020 7563 4572 or emailing advice.enquiries@bda.org

Essential members wishing to upgrade their membership should visit the BDA website or call 020 7563 4550.

About the BDA

Through policy and campaigning work, the BDA is able to ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: join us.