The popularity of teeth whitening kiosks located in US shopping malls has increased greatly over the past decade. Such kiosks are usually staffed by individuals who – despite wearing what appears to be a white medical uniform – usually do not hold any medical or dentistry qualification. There has also been a steep rise in the number of beauty salons offering the service along with beauty therapists offering teeth whitening services at the homes of customers. Whilst a registered cosmetic dentists offer teeth whitening in a highly controlled, regulated and safe environment other non-dental professionals offer the same service at a far lower price; but many dental professionals and dentistry organizations have concerns regarding the safety of the customer.
How Teeth Whitening Works
Teeth whitening is the process of removing the stains on the outer surfaces of the teeth with the help of a bleaching agent that is applied on the teeth. Usually, this bleaching agent is carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide that release oxygen, which removes the stains. Clinical teeth whitening should ideally be done by a dentist and it can lighten your teeth by several shades, improving the colour. The treatment does not provide permanent results, and may last for a few months or even up to 3 years depending on individual conditions. Smoking, drinking red wine, tea and coffee can all bring the stains back. Teeth whitening treatment is only effective on natural tooth enamel and does not whiten crowns, dentures, fillings or veneers.
Clinical Teeth Whitening as a Dental Procedure
The dentist applies the bleaching agent, usually hydrogen peroxide of 30 – 38% concentration, to the teeth for 15 minutes and this process is repeated depending upon the patient’s requirement. Usually, the teeth whitening procedure takes an hour to complete. When it is carried out at a dentist’s, the patient’s safety is ensured with a protective apparatus placed around the gums and lips.
A qualified and experienced dentist will first evaluate the patient’s condition to decide whether he/she is a candidate for teeth whitening. The dentist will have a comprehensive understanding of the oral anatomy, any risks involved and the particular requirements of the patient. In instances where the patient has gum disease, sensitive teeth or worn teeth enamel, the dentist may advise against clinical teeth whitening.
What Is the Risk in Having the Procedure Done Elsewhere?
In the US the American Dental Association (ADA) has stated that teeth whitening procedures constitute a dental procedure, therefore ‘any non-dentist engaging in such activity is committing the unlicensed practice of dentistry’. But the situation is not so clear cut; in many States it has been ruled to be illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to carry out tooth whitening, in others it remains legal.
In the UK Teeth whitening is now being provided at certain beauty salons based in London, according to reports form the GDC (General Dental Council). It is to be noted that this type of beauty treatment is illegal if provided by anyone who is not a fully qualified, trained and experienced dental professional.
· There have been instances where beauty salons & kiosks offering unregulated teeth whitening treatment have used chemicals that could harm the gum tissue. It has been found that some of these kiosks & salons use chlorine dioxide, a chemical sometimes found in industrial grade detergents. Chlorine dioxide, being extremely acidic can cause irrevocable damage to tooth enamel.
· Some clinics providing unregulated teeth whitening treatment use a gel which has very high concentration of hydrogen peroxide and can result in severe burns and damaged gums.
· At a beauty salon or teeth whiten kiosk, the service is provided by people who are not properly qualified or experienced. This means that patients going for treatment to such places are at risk.
· Individuals providing teeth bleaching at mall kiosks and beauty salons do not have the professional knowledge to judge whether the patient has pre-existing conditions such as gum disease or sensitive teeth. They may not even know that such persons are not candidates for teeth whitening.
· In The UK, another important thing to bear in mind is that a person providing unlawful teeth whitening, either from a beauty salon or at the homes of customers is not likely to be covered by any public indemnity insurance policy.
The ADA Teeth Whitening Imperative
The ADA considers teeth whitening as a form of dentistry and requires that the treatment should be provided only by a dentist, or a dental therapist / dental hygienist when the dentist prescribes it. This is because dentists and other dental professionals are adequately qualified to provide a range of dental treatments.
The problem, however, is that in most states it is perfectly legal for anyone to buy a home teeth whitening kit and perform the treatment by themselves, even though dentists advise against this. Maybe this is what has led to more and more unqualified therapists such as beauty salon owners providing teeth whitening procedures under the impression they are doing so legally.
It is advised that anyone planning teeth whitening treatment should only have it carried out at a registered dental clinic. This will ensure that the procedure is safe and effective and is provided in a safe, regulated & controlled manner.