The General Dental Council (GDC) in the UK has welcomed a recent UK High Court ruling that tooth whitening comes within the meaning of the practice of dentistry under UK law and should only be undertaken by regulated dental professionals.  

Under UK law, the practice of dentistry is deemed to include “the performance of any such operation and the giving of any such treatment, advice or attendance as is usually performed or given by dentists”.

This case concerned a beautician providing the service of tooth whitening.  She was insured but her only qualification was from a beauty school, where she had completed a one-day course.

The Court found that tooth whitening did fall within the meaning of the practice of dentistry and overturned a Magistrates’ Court’s decision that acquitted the beautician of the offences of practicing dentistry and unlawfully carrying on the business of dentistry.  The beautician now awaits sentencing.

In Ireland, new legislation updating the regulation of dental health professionals has been proposed. The protection of the public is the main objective of the new legislation.

New European regulations introduced in 2012 set down new rules in relation to tooth whitening services and products.  These regulations have been well received by dentists.  There is now a clear distinction between products that can be used for tooth whitening by dentists or under the direct supervision of a dentist and products that can be used/sold by non-dental professionals such as beauticians.

The Irish Dental Council in its recent Guidance on Tooth Whitening has stated that the procedure can only be carried out by a registered dentist.  This contrasts with the position in some other European countries and the UK where dental hygienists and therapists can provide tooth whitening under the direct supervision of a dentist.