Backstreet beauty: the ugly truth about illegal teeth whitening

There’s a huge market for cheap teeth whitening – and if you’re short on time and money it’s perhaps understandable that you might look twice at a special offer from someone who is not a registered dentist, or buy whitening products online.


However, with a recent BBC report shining a light on illegal teeth whitening, it’s more important than ever that you’re armed with the facts. Despite legislation, the practice is on the rise in the UK, carried out by beauticians who have no training and use products containing as much as 300 times the legal amount of bleaching agent. The result? Excruciating pain, blistering, swelling and third-degree burns, along with tooth sensitivity for life.

When done right, teeth whitening is a cost-effective dental procedure that produces excellent cosmetic results. See how we worded that? A dental procedure with cosmetic results – not the other way around! By law, it can only be carried out by a dental professional who is registered with the General Dental Council. That practitioner will have undergone special training to carry out teeth whitening that is both safe and effective.

So why is teeth whitening still widely available from beauticians and other non-dental practitioners? One reason is lack of awareness. Non-registered practitioners who get caught often say they didn’t know they were breaking the law – either because they weren’t aware of the legislation, their whitening company assured them their products were legal, or because they believe they’re not liable if they get the patient to apply the product themselves.

The fact remains that getting your teeth whitened with anyone who is not GDC-registered is dangerous. And when you consider the long-term cost to your smile, the cost of legal teeth whitening is worth every penny.

Teeth whitening – know the facts before undergoing treatment


  • A dental examination that ensures you are a suitable candidate for treatment. Whitening is not suitable if you are pregnant or don’t have healthy teeth and gums.
  • Treatment with a GDC-registered dentist who has undergone 5 years’ training, or who supervises a GDC-registered nurse or hygienist.
  • Treatment in a state-of-the art clinical setting.
  • Regulated, prescription-only whitening gel that contains up to 6% hydrogen peroxide (or the equivalent of 16% carbamide peroxide). This is both safe and effective – legal over-the-counter products only contain 0.1%.
  • Bespoke whitening trays that fit precisely, targeting your teeth while protecting your gums.
  • Managed treatment and adjustable prescriptions.
  • Ongoing aftercare, including advice on keeping your smile whiter for longer.


  • No dental examination or medically informed decision on your suitability for treatment – it’s all at your own risk.
  • Treatment from someone with no training, who buys their products direct from a supplier without always knowing what’s in them.
  • Treatment in unsanitary domestic settings.
  • Illegal products that can contain up to 300 times the legal amount of hydrogen peroxide, causing burning, blistering and permanent tooth pain.
  • Generic whitening trays that can cause bleaching gel to leak onto gums, and allow saliva to neutralise the effect of the gel on your teeth.
  • Unpredictable results that can range from uneven whitening and damaged enamel to swelling, burns and long-term pain.
  • No aftercare or legal recourse if the treatment goes wrong.


Now you’ve got the facts, book in with The Dental Surgery for a professional teeth-whitening consultation. We offer a range of whitening options alongside our professional teeth-bleaching system, and will recommend the most suitable whitening treatment for you.

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