Teeth whitening is an increasingly popular procedure with more and more people trying to achieve a Hollywood smile. But considering the procedure involves applying bleach to your teeth, just how safe is it to have your teeth whitened.
The product used in whitening teeth is hydrogen peroxide, which is a bleaching agent. In a concentrated level this is a highly reactive chemical. However, maximum authorised concentration of hydrogen peroxide in teeth whitening products is 6%, as stated by the Cosmetic Products (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, ensuring the safety of the product.
Having your teeth whitened is a process carried out repeatedly over a couple of months. The dentist will make a mould of your teeth to provide you with a mouthguard and bleaching gel. The bleach will be applied for a set time at regular intervals over a period of a few weeks, and the mouthguard is worn to prevent the bleach from touching your gums or lips. A procedure called power whitening can also be performed where the bleach is applied to your teeth, which are then exposed to a laser light. This method is more expensive but results are achieved more quickly.
When teeth whitening was considered a cosmetic procedure rather than a dental procedure, there were no regulations or limits on who could perform it. However, the General Dental Council have recently defined it as a form of dentistry, and there are now stricter regulations in place. This means that it is now illegal for unqualified individuals to perform the procedure, so teeth whitening can no longer be carried out by beauty salons, and must be performed by a registered dentist. Hydrogen peroxide above 0.1% can only be sold to dental practitioners, and the first time you use it must be under the supervision of the dentist.
It is still legal for products containing less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide to be sold, so home teeth whitening kits are still available. But they are a riskier method due to the fact the mouthguard is not fitted by a dentist increasing the potential for the product to leak. They are also unlikely to be as effective due to the use of weaker chemicals.
Therefore recent changes to the law mean that teeth whitening is a safer procedure than ever, provided you visit a fully qualified dentist.