Irish dentists address teeth-whitening risks

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) is warning patients of the danger of many teeth-whitening products, saying many of them range from useless to dangerous.

The IDA has also expressed its concern about unsupervised teeth whitening.

The warning coincides with new plans from the European Commission to regulate the use of hydrogen peroxide, the chemical used in teeth whitening. Under the new regulations, which should take effect next month, only fully qualified dentists will be permitted to provide this service, the IDA noted.

Tom Feeney, BDS, IDA representative on the Council of European Dentists and a Dublin-based dentist, believes regulation of the sector is long overdue and that the new measures will safeguard patient safety.

"Dentists are fully qualified to carry out a full oral examination, make a diagnosis on the basis of that examination and the patient's full dental history, and then decide if the use of a tooth-whitening product is appropriate," he stated in a press release. "Other people practicing tooth whitening do not have the ability to do that. There are also issues to do with infection control, the safe disposal of contaminated waste, and indemnity insurance issues."

Some teeth-whitening products contain very high levels of hydrogen peroxide, and these could be lethal in the wrong hands, Dr. Feeney warned. Other products contain very low levels of hydrogen peroxide and are next to useless, he added.

"To be effective a product has to have over 3% hydrogen peroxide, and the new regulations from the European Commission will prohibit products containing over 6% hydrogen peroxide," Dr. Feeney said. "The new regulations will ensure that properly qualified dentists are carrying out what is a dental procedure and that safe products are being used."

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