Calls for a ban on over-the-counter tooth whitening kits

on 22nd February 2019


The British Dental Bleaching Society (BDBS) is calling for a ban on over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening kits.

A study published in the BDJ found some OTC whitening products significantly reduced the hardness of teeth.

Some of the non-hydrogen peroxide OTC products also had less of a whitening effect on teeth than saline.

‘The lack of research and ease of availability of these products from major retailers is alarming and may potentially be harming the consumers’ dentition’, warns Dr Linda Greenwall, co-author of the study.

‘It goes without saying, anyone wishing to whiten their teeth must consult with their dentist first.

‘The dentist, by law, has to check a patient’s teeth for pathology and see if they are a candidate for safe tooth whitening.’

Dangers with OTC whitening products

The study claims OTC products containing sodium chlorite, in the presence of acid, could ‘significantly reduce hardness of the teeth’.

Other DIY tooth-whitening kits have been found to contain dangerously high levels of hydrogen peroxide.

Further concerns with OTC products are the risk of misuse, overuse and abuse because of their ‘DIY’ nature.

‘The British Dental Bleaching Society is advocating safe tooth whitening and training as well as competency for dentists undertaking safe and effective tooth whitening for their patients,’ the BDBS says.

‘We are concerned that the OTC products included in the study may be harmful to teeth.

‘We advise the general public to see their dentist if they are considering having their teeth whitened.’

BDA warnings

The British Dental Association (BDA) is also warning consumers of the dangers with OTC teeth whitening products.

Over-the-counter whitening products can legally contain a maximum 0.1% hydrogen peroxide.

The BDA claims this is too weak to alter tooth shades.

It goes on to warn of some products being ‘less precise’ with other chemicals included that claim to whiten teeth.

‘At best, people may be wasting their money buying over-the-counter and online products to whiten teeth,’ The BDA’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said.

‘Home whitening kits are likely to take longer and be less effective than treatment from the dentist.

‘While hydrogen peroxide, as used in dental practices, is the gold standard for whitening teeth, the lack of clarity over chemicals used in over-the-counter and online products means you could be gambling with your teeth.

‘Some online products have been found to contain dangerous chemicals.

‘These include toxic or banned substances that can severely burn gums, or irreparably damage teeth.

‘Dentists are trained to consider a patient’s wider health and detect problems.

‘They also know what whitening products are effective to use, and safe for teeth and gums.’


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