Teeth whitening is increasingly popular, and more people are looking beyond the dental surgery to achieve the look they want.
However, non-professional teeth whitening, not performed by dental professionals, comes with certain risks.
A growing awareness of these risks should also make dentists think carefully about the cosmetic treatments they offer and whether their practices are suitably equipped to offer them.
The Dangers of Teeth Whitening Products
The British Dental Journal, BDJ, has published a study about the dangers of using over the counter (OTC) teeth whitening products.
The active ingredient in some of these products is sodium chlorite, which the study says, could significantly reduce the hardness of teeth, and increase the likeliness of future abrasions.
This is clearly an issue that attracts interest, with many media outlets picking up on the study’s findings, including Sky News, ITV News and several national newspapers.
Three products that the researchers led by the University of Manchester Dental School tested were found to be potentially harmful.
Other products contained chemicals claiming to whiten teeth but often failed to declare exactly what these chemicals were.
Trading standards have seized other DIY teeth whitening products that contain dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide. These bleaching gels can cause mouth infections, blistering and burns to gums, shrinking of gums, damage to tooth enamel and nerves.
Home teeth whitening kits typically take longer to work, and be less effective than professional dental teeth whitening treatments.
Dentists themselves use hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening, but this is obviously highly controlled and expertly applied.
Furthermore, a dentist will also take a patient’s general condition into consideration, such as what level of gum disease they might have, and therefore whether they would be suitable for teeth whitening treatments.
Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
The most convenient form of DIY teeth whitening that many people opt for is a teeth whitening toothpaste.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority, ASA, has ruled that some adverts for whitening toothpastes are misleading.
Brushing teeth effectively can remove extrinsic stains occurring on the external surface of teeth, usually near the gingival margin. But removal of this yellow plaque is not the same as tooth whitening, though some toothpaste manufacturers have claimed it is.
It is not the same as intrinsic whitening of the teeth. It has simply given the appearance of the tooth being whiter.
Toothpaste manufacturers tend to guard their whitening ingredients. But if their toothpastes do not include hydrogen peroxide, which can be dangerous (see above), or carbamide peroxide, then they cannot whiten teeth intrinsically.
Teeth Whitening and Cosmetic Dentistry
Campaigners for safe teeth whitening are warning beauty therapists against illegal practices.
As a regulator, the General Dental Council has brought several prosecutions in court.
Under a European Council directive, only registered dental professionals offering teeth whitening treatments can carry out procedures that involve products containing or releasing hydrogen peroxide above levels of 0.1%.
In short, dentists are the recognised experts in teeth whitening. Dental practices offering these treatments are best positioned to compete in this growing market.
To do this, they must also consider the overall positioning of their brand, and how their dental surgery fit out reflects this.
“Are you unleashing your full potential when it comes to dental equipment and your surgery fit-out? What will your dental practice require to compete effectively in the world of cosmetic dentistry, including teeth whitening and aesthetics?”
Pete Higson, RPA Dental