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What are the Rules for Teeth Whitening in UK Law?

The legal framework around which the General Dental Council (GDC) governs teeth whitening in the UK regulates what chemicals can be used in the process and limit their strength. The bleaching solutions used by cosmetic surgeons and dentists must not contain more than 6% of hydrogen peroxide - a readily available but strong chemical used in disinfectants and other cleaning supplies. These and similar strong chemicals can erode the enamel lining on teeth, or even cause chemical scarring in the mouth if applied incorrectly, which are some of the most common reasons for starting a cosmetic surgery compensation claim.

In the following guide, the experts at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors will explain the requirements of cosmetic surgeons and dentists when they are performing teeth whitening dental treatments, what can go wrong and what you can do if something does.

By what teeth whitening laws must cosmetic surgeons and dentists work?

It is a criminal offence for cosmetic surgeons or dentists to use bleaching solutions that contain or release between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide without a valid dentist's prescription. This means that, unless cosmetic surgeries have a registered cosmetic dentist working within, they can not legally perform whitening procedures with any products that contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide.

The only exception to this is when a professional dentist directly supervises the procedure which is being carried out by another cosmetic professional or trainee. However, subsequent applications of the bleaching product must be undertaken by the dental professional.

To meet the GDC's requirements for providing teeth whitening, a dentist or cosmetic surgeon must be registered with the GDC to do so, otherwise they will be in breach of the Dentists Act 1984.

Additionally, such bleaching products can not be used on any patient under the age of 18 for cosmetic purposes.

When using bleaching products containing up to 6% of hydrogen peroxide, cosmetic dentists must make sure they conduct a thorough examination to determine that there are no health factors that will cause risk, and limit the patient's exposure to the products to the amount of time necessary for their application. Cosmetic dentists must not sell products to consumers that contain or give off this dangerous amount of hydrogen peroxide.

This also means that organisations distributing products containing hydrogen peroxide must ensure that they are doing so in line with these regulations; products with up to 6% hydrogen peroxide content can only be sold to professional dental practitioners. Failing to comply with this law is a criminal offence which those looking to purchase products should also consider.

Products that contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide are illegal for use in cosmetic procedures and are restricted to applications for the treatment of disease. If it is found that any aspect of the use of a substance of this strength was not intended for the treatment of disease, the party responsible may be prosecuted.

What can go wrong if cosmetic surgeons and dentists do not comply with teeth whitening laws?

The most common issues that patients face when receiving negligent teeth whitening care are:

  • Increased tooth sensitivity due to the erosion of enamel
  • Chemical burns due to carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide reacting in the mouth
  • Over-bleached teeth caused by an inconsistent or overly strong concentration of bleach

Each of the above points can lead to significant harm for the patient, whether due to physical pain and injury or psychological damage.

What can you do if you have been treated with teeth whitening medical negligence?

If your teeth whitening procedure has gone wrong and you believe it was caused by the negligence of your cosmetic dentist or surgeon, you may be able to make a compensation claim to gain funds that will help you to seek support.

Cosmetic surgery negligence occurs when a cosmetic surgeon breaks their duty of care to a patient. This means that the surgeon has caused the patient harm and has failed to follow the procedure to the standard set by UK law. In terms of teeth whitening, this may be because they applied the bleach incorrectly or used a product that contains an illegal amount of hydrogen peroxide, and dentists can be liable for this too.

If you believe your suffering has been caused by negligent cosmetic surgery, you should speak to a cosmetic surgery solicitor as soon as possible to understand your options. Our team will be able to help you through the entire claims process.

When making a cosmetic surgery claim, you must prove the following points:

  • That your cosmetic surgeon or dentist breached their duty of care to you and is at fault for causing you harm
  • That the negligence directly caused you to suffer

To prove these points, you must do so with evidence - our team will help you to identify and collect this.

To prove that your cosmetic surgeon or dentist acted with negligence, you may be able to find out the type of bleaching product that they used to determine whether it was illegal. You should also seek a diagnosis from a medical professional who will be able to determine the cause of your injuries or issue and provide a statement declaring who is at fault.

To prove that you were caused suffering by medical negligence, you may be able to provide witness statements, medical or mental health reports, or records of how your suffering has caused you to lose money.

When making a cosmetic surgery negligence claim, the aim will be to secure funds which will enable you to regain your lost finances or cover any medical care, corrective surgery or other support you require. We will assess this and then approach the negligent party to inform them that a negligence claim is being made against them.

Following this, the other party may simply agree to pay the compensation amount, or may agree to enter into a mediation session. However, the other party may dispute your claim. If they do, court proceedings will be necessary, during which we will represent you and present your evidence as our argument. While it is rare that such cases require court proceedings, you will be required to attend and give evidence.

For expert legal advice on any aspect of cosmetic surgery claims or teeth whitening negligence, speak to our team today. Call us on 0808 159 3999 or fill out an online contact form and we will contact you at a time specified by you.

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Russell Sutton is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding dental negligence cases. Russell's commitment to his clients is unmatched, as he empathises with the emotional and physical toll that dental negligence can take on people’s lives.

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