The Dangers of Illegal Teeth Whitening

Posted by: Charlie Burrows

We have all heard of “botch” dentistry and poor dental experiences from patients who have suffered at the hands of careless, unqualified dentists, whether it be pulled-teeth or incorrect fillings but it seems that illegal treatments are still a problem in the UK and there’s one treatment in particular that people are happy to get, despite warnings that there are illegal services being run right now, posing as legitimate ones.


Illegal Teeth Whitening

There has been a rise in the number of people caught performing or offering teeth whitening services locally and this is a big problem, not only for the patient but also for dentistry in general. The GDC have stated that officially registered dentists are the only ones who should be offering the service. According to a recent report by the BBC, in 2019 there were 732 cases of illegal teeth whitening which were reported to the GDC. This is a 26% rise over 2018 and there have been 126 prosecutions since 2015. (Source:

But what makes it illegal? Simply put, there are too many untrained beauticians offering teeth whitening as an extra service and as the GDC have stated, only qualified registered dentists should be performing this treatment. Unfortunately, the rise of at-home teeth whitening kits and accessories is making it easier for people to try and capitalise on this as a sellable service to customers, particularly in the beauty sector.


Why is it Illegal?

Like many dental treatments, teeth whitening is a discipline and requires knowledge of how to use the equipment and to safely deliver results effectively. The risks involved with poorly applied treatment of teeth whitening include blisters, skin burns, tooth loss and emotional stress that can come from a bad experience. The illegality of it comes from the fact that they are not trained dentists and they are offering a dental service, albeit one that often comes under the “beauty” category. In many cases they are handing patients whitening kits and advising on self-application, whilst providing the lighting and equipment to do it. This is illegal as they are providing the means and area, equipment and “skills” in order to offer the service as a paid treatment. Even though the patient is doing most of it themselves.


How to Recognise Illegal Treatments?

Aside from the fact that there may be some people out there who offer the service out of genuine desire to help customers, nevertheless, it’s dangerous and it can lead to further problems, potentially causing burns and permanent damage to teeth which then have to be resolved by a dentist. With current waiting times and issues with availability at NHS dentists across the UK, the last thing anyone should do is undergo illegal treatment for a beauty improvement which could then result in necessary emergency dental treatment. Illegal treatments are starting to appear under the guise of additional beauty treatment packages. You should only have dental services performed by trained and registered dental practitioners and it’s advisable to look out for extra offers from salons and beauty establishments and for certifications from beauty schools which state they are qualified for teeth whitening. This could be a red flag and you shouldn’t accept this treatment from anywhere other than a qualified registered dental practice.


A Growing Problem

Incredibly, there are teeth whitening courses which are being offered at beauty schools and they are effectively providing a false sense of qualification to many in the beauty industry. These classes are actually undermining the effectiveness of real teeth whitening treatments through proper dental services and resulting in illegal offerings by untrained beauty practitioners who have no right to be performing them. 

The issue is that many of these courses are training people to hand patients teeth whitening trays and to advise them on self application which still constitutes an illegal treatment. It’s dangerous, reckless and it could cause lasting problems for someone’s health. 

Until these types of courses are banned from beauty colleges and institutions, this problem isn’t going to go away as many people find new ways to make additional money from add-on services, regardless of whether they are part of their specialty or not.

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