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Home // Tooth Whitening: Dental Council Bares its Teeth again

Back in 2014, in the landmark case of Jamous, the General Dental Council (the GDC) got the High Court to agree that tooth whitening amounted to a dental procedure. The decision meant tooth whitening in the UK could only be carried out by dentists regulated by the GDC itself. Anyone carrying out the procedure when not qualified to do so is guilty of a criminal offence.

Since the Jamous case, tooth whitening has arguably become even more popular. At Nath Solicitors in London, we offer a wide range of legal services to dentists. We’ve seen how teeth whitening procedures have for many practices become an important income stream. As the procedure becomes more common, the GDC has faced accusations that its stance is all about safeguarding the income of dentists. But the regulator is clear that it has a duty to protect the public from harm. Its continued vigilance is all about safeguarding the public from rogue, unqualified teeth whitening providers.

Fines for Illegal Tooth Whitening

This month alone we are aware of two cases – arising out of GDC investigations – where individuals have been found guilty by magistrates of illegal tooth whitening and fined. In one case a woman from Sunderland was fined £9,500.  In the other magistrates in London imposed a conditional discharge on the owner of a beauty salon and ordered payment of costs of £1,000.

GDC Investigates Beauty Salon Offering Whitening

The London case involved a beauty salon with a chequered history of treatment. The GDC had received three separate complaints about incidents there. As a result, it had warned the salon in writing that only a recognised professional should carry out tooth whitening.

In the absence of any satisfactory response from the salon, and concerned of a threat to the general public, the GDC sent investigators disguised as customers wanting tooth whitening treatment to the salon. Here, they found that tooth whitening was being offered. In addition, the room in which the defendant was proposing to perform the procedure of tooth whitening contained dental equipment which only a dentist or dental care professional would be authorised to use. The defendant was neither a dentist nor a dental care professional.

The prosecution argued that the defendant had provided illicit advice and attendance of after-care to the investigators. This was a breach of section 38 of the Dentistry Act 1984.

The salon initially attempted to defend its actions by arguing that:

  1. Clients themselves administered the tooth whitening they offered. It was an ‘at-home’ process.
  2. The defendant was performing the role as an employee of the salon and was provided in-house training from the supplier of the self-administered tooth whitening system. This supplier told the salon it was legal to provide tooth whitening. Based on this assurance and in good faith, the defendant carried out treatment.
  3. The Defendant was unaware of the letters from the GDC and was remorseful and upset at the time the investigators informed the defendant they were providing illegal treatment tooth whitening.

At the hearing however the salon pled guilty to the illegal practice of tooth whitening.

Contact our Specialist Solicitors for Dentists in London

These cases are undoubtedly of interest to out dental practice clients. They reaffirm the principle that only dentists can offer tooth whitening in the UK. They also provide a strong justification for practice charges to those patients who may be tempted to seek whitening in a cheaper, unregulated and perhaps unsafe environment.

To discuss any legal issues your dental practice is facing please contact Shubha Nath on + 44 (0) 203 670 5540 or contact the firm online.


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