The DDU's advice on tooth whitening

Image of a woman smiling with white teeth

12 May 2017

Dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and clinical dental technicians can provide tooth whitening treatments to adult patients without fear of prosecution, providing they act within the legal and ethical parameters.

Legal background

The current legal position on tooth whitening is set out by the Cosmetic Products (Safety)(Amendment) Regulations 2012, UK Government, laid before Parliament on 5 September 2012. The GDC has also issued its own guidance for dental professionals.

It is legal for certain groups of dental professionals to use whitening compounds containing or releasing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide, or to supply home-whitening products at this concentration, provided the following conditions are met:

  • The products are sold to dental practitioners.
  • For each cycle, the treatment is first administered by a dental practitioner or under their direct supervision if an equivalent level of safety is ensured. It can then be completed by the patient.
  • The patient is 18 years old or over.

Supply

The regulations, as amended, prohibit the 'supply' of any tooth whitening product that does not meet the specified conditions. This includes products administered during a course of treatment that takes place entirely within the dental practice.

Scope of practice

The GDC regards all tooth whitening procedures, including bleach and laser treatment, as the practice of dentistry. All dental professionals involved in tooth whitening must be trained and competent to carry out the procedure and have appropriate indemnity.

In-surgery and home whitening

Patients can only be provided with a home whitening kit containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide after they have been examined by a dentist and received the first cycle of treatment from a dentist or under the direct supervision of a dentist.

Patients under 18

Under the law, patients must be aged 18 or over. Although the GDC makes an exception for whitening the teeth of under-18s when used 'wholly for the purpose of treating or preventing disease', the DDU cannot envisage any circumstance where this might be the case. Our legal advice is that there are no exceptions to the rule and all patients must be aged 18 years or over.

Indemnity

Access to indemnity for tooth whitening is included in our standard subscription rates for dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists. Hygienists and therapists should let us know if you intend to carry out whitening treatments by calling our membership team.

Download our advice here or read or quick guide to tooth whitening.

This guidance was correct at publication 12/05/2017. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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