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Warning over unlicensed teeth whitening clinics in Norfolk

Teeth whitening products can be sold legally and applied at home but advice or treatment can only legally be given by someone registered with the GDC. Photo: Archant

Teeth whitening products can be sold legally and applied at home but advice or treatment can only legally be given by someone registered with the GDC. Photo: Archant

Archant © 2006

Unlicensed teeth whitening services are operating in Norfolk, an investigation by this newspaper has found, raising fears about safety.

Teeth whitening should only be carried out by trained dental professionals, according to the GDC. Photo: ArchantTeeth whitening should only be carried out by trained dental professionals, according to the GDC. Photo: Archant

Dentists have warned that having your teeth whitened by someone who is not registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) can cause damage to your teeth and gums.

Last year a woman suffered third-degree burns after her teeth were whitened by an unlicensed beautician at her home. She had to have an emergency dentist appointment.

In another case, a mum in Lancaster lost her two front teeth when she was given teeth whitening treatment by someone not registered with the GDC.

This newspaper found seven beauty clinics in Norfolk, not registered with the GDC, listed as offering teeth whitening services online, but only one appeared to be operating.

It is legal to sell tooth whitening products, but tooth whitening can only be carried out by dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists registered with the GDC.

One Norwich clinic, not registered with the GDC, which we found operating said what they are doing is legal as they only provide the product - the customer is the one who applies it.

When our undercover reporter visited the clinic we were offered an appointment and told the process involved a gel paste being put into a mouth guard. You then put the guard in your mouth and a light activates the gel, where you sit and wait for an hour.

We were told the gel contained natural products so you could have it done as many times as you want.

The law says the “practice of dentistry” includes providing “advice”, “treatment” and “attendance” to someone, which, the GDC said could include for example, telling someone to place a product on their teeth or advising about aftercare.

But what constitutes advice and treatment appears to be a grey area.

A spokesman for the GDC said: “Tooth whitening treatment amounts to the practice of dentistry and must be a carried out by a dental professional registered with the General Dental Council. If it is carried out by someone who is not registered, it is illegal.”

Another Norwich clinic listed as providing the service told our undercover reporter they no longer did it, while two others listed online have been shut.

A further two are listed at private home addresses and could not be reached for contact.

In 2015 a woman who carried out teeth whitening on Ruskin Road in Norwich was fined £1,800 by the GDC.

•The possible dangers

There have been horror stories in Norwich and elsewhere of people having teeth whitened and then needing to go to hospital with damaged gums for emergency treatment.

In other cases lips have swollen up and teeth have even been so badly damaged they have been removed.

The GDC says it regulates the industry for safety reasons - products used by a dental professional have been tested while untested products which may be used by beauticians could cause permanent damage.

Those not registered with the GDC, such as beauticians, beauty salons and pop-up booths do not have to adhere to the same regulations as dentists registered with the GDC and are therefore operating illegally if they carry out teeth whitening, the GDC says.

However, it is legal for shops to sell teeth whitening kits which are then applied at home as long as they contain less than 0.1pc hydrogen peroxide.

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