Landmark UK decision keeps whitening in the hands of dentists

As the dental board of North Carolina battles in the Supreme Court to be granted regulatory status over teeth whitening, dentists in America should take some comfort from a recent landmark ruling in UK courts in relation to the same matter.

Jan 21st, 2014
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As the dental board of North Carolina battles in the Supreme Court to be granted regulatory status over teeth whitening, dentists in America should take some comfort from a recent landmark ruling in UK courts in relation to the same matter. Dental bodies in the UK have battled against unlicensed teeth whitening operations for years and had a massive breakthrough in 2013.

Last year, the UK’s General Dental Council, which governs the provision of dental services, won its High Court battle with an unlicensed provider of teeth whitening confirming its regulatory status as teeth whitening was deemed to be the business of dentistry.

The British Dental Association and General Dental Council had been fighting against these “cowboy teeth bleachers” for many years, but the campaign was always lacking teeth without the necessary legal backing. The landmark case was taken against a qualified beautician named Lorna Jamous, who was carrying out teeth bleaching procedures in her beauty salon.

Initially a lower court ruled in favor of Ms. Jamous, stating she was within her rights to carry out teeth whitening. However, the ultimate court in the UK, the High Court, ruled that tooth whitening does constitute the practice of dentistry and, therefore, those who are not qualified as dentists and regulated by the GDC are prohibited from carrying out such treatment.

The consequence of this is that any unregulated person to carry out the procedure is carrying out a criminal offense and can be tried as such, allowing any future rogue teeth bleaching to be prosecuted through the courts.

Ms. Jamous was convicted of practicing dentistry and unlawfully carrying on the business of dentistry when not regulated by the GDC. For this she was given a 12-month conditional sentence and ordered to pay £350 toward court costs for the GDC. The punishment is light, but the verdict should be enough to scare off any nonqualified teeth whiteners, otherwise punishments will become a lot harsher.

The GDC is now fighting these “cowboy bleachers” with renewed vigor. One of its first steps was to enter discussions with Groupon, the main daily deals site in the UK that now only includes teeth whitening offers from regulated professionals. It will continue to identify these unlicensed practitioners and bring them to justice.

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Eoin Holohan is founder of TeethWise, the first cosmetic dental clinic search and comparison website, based in Google Campus London. To learn more the popular dental blog or sign up for their monthly newsletter, click here. You may contact the author by email at eoin.holohan@teethwise.co.uk.

Photo credit: Dreamstime.com.

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