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Keep it legal 24-03-2016

Tooth whitening is increasingly popular, and for many it is now an established part of their regular self-care. Having teeth that are that little bit whiter, and free of stains caused by everyday consumption of certain food types, gives lots of people the confidence they need to flash that smile. However, before you’re too quick to order the latest home whitening kit online, it’s a good idea to be aware of the legislation around this procedure. Failing to be up to date with this can have significant consequences for your smile. Following a recent BBC documentary on the topic, we thought we’d bring you the low down on the key points and consider some of the fundamental questions.

What is tooth whitening?

Teeth can become discoloured over time: everyone is different and so people’s teeth discolour at different rates. Certain foods and drinks can accelerate discolouration: tea, coffee, red wine and black-currant are prime culprits. Tooth whitening works to lighten the natural colour of your teeth, but without removing any of the tooth surface. You won’t end up with brilliant white teeth, but the existing shade may be lightened somewhat.

What does it involve?

Your dental team will be able to carry out an examination and talk you through the best option for you. However professional bleaching is the most common method used. A whitening product is applied to your teeth using a tray (made for you individually), which fits into your mouth like a mouth-guard. The whitening product used has an active ingredient: usually hydrogen peroxide or caramide peroxide. Treatment takes roughly three-four weeks and includes a mixture of dentist visits and treatments at home using the equipment provided.

Other treatment options include laser, or ‘power whitening’ which is much quicker, and there are also some products which can be applied to your teeth for longer periods of time, leading to much quicker results.

Who can carry it out?

Tooth whitening can only be carried out by a qualified and registered dentist, a dental hygienist, or a dental therapist who is working to the prescription of a dentist. This is in light of the fact that the General Dental Council views the application of materials and the carrying out of procedures designed to improve the aesthetic appearance of teeth as ‘the practice of dentistry’. Therefore, be very wary of beauty salons and other ‘professionals’ who offer this treatment.

What about over-the-counter home kits?

There are numerous over-the-counter kits available these days: it’s very easy to get your hands on a tooth whitening product. However, in legal terms, these products can only contain a maximum of 0.1% of the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide. This concentration is far too low to have any effect on tooth colour which is noticeable. To put this into perspective, dentists are able to use products with up to 6% hydrogen peroxide. This much greater concentration is far more effective. Products of over 0.1% can only be sold to a dentist.

Is there any other legislation I need to be aware of?

All patients undergoing tooth whitening must be over 18 years of age. The dentist must have carried out a full examination prior to treatment beginning to check for risks.

In summary, it’s really important to think carefully before undertaking a tooth whitening procedure. Try not to be tempted by special offers in local salons promising to transform your smile: the products being used are likely to contain too low a concentration of hydrogen peroxide to be very effective, and could actually cause damage to your teeth and gums.

If you are considering tooth whitening, call in to discuss the procedure with us at Ock Street. We have a range of options carried out by our dental team and would be very happy to find you an option that meets your requirements.

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