GDC – Who is Whiter than White?

January 29, 2014

Chattering Teeth ToyIt was recently announced that The General Dental Council (GDC) has successfully prosecuted another non-registrant for unlawfully practising dentistry, namely tooth whitening.  On 20 December 2013 Hayley Wilding was found guilty at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court of unlawfully practising dentistry at a Beauty Clinic.  Technically, she was found guilty of unlawfully carrying on the business of dentistry, contrary to sections 41 (1) and (1B) of the Dentists Act 1984.  Only us dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists (working to the prescription of a dentist) can carry out tooth whitening.

Not cheap!

This is the second successful prosecution launched by the GDC since a decision by the High Court in May that tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry and should only be undertaken by registered dental professionals. Ms Wilding was fined £900 in relation to the first charge and £450 in relation to the second charge and ordered to pay a £135 victim surcharge and full costs to the GDC of £1862.64.  That`s a pretty big chunk of money!  Do you think she was unaware of the law concerning this?  I think the likelihood is that she was aware and just pushing the limits.  In the beautician world, it must have got about since the first prosecution in 2013 that the law had been clarified.

What would you do?

Now it begs the question `What would you do if you heard through a patient that someone down the road was providing this service?`

There are several options I suppose.
A. Would you ignore it?
B. Would you go and have a word and warn them of the consequences?
C. Would you report the matter to the GDC?

The correct answer, according to our professional responsibilities, is `C`.  The GDC website has an on-line form available to both public and registrants for reporting suspicions.  During the last three years, The General Dental Council has received complaints from the public and dental professionals about tooth whitening which focus “on the risk to patient safety from poor quality tooth whitening being carried out by untrained or poorly trained staff”.  Further, an independent mystery shopping exercise found substantial evidence of tooth whitening being carried out in beauty salons and health clinics by staff without any dental training or qualifications.

Public Agreement

Independent Research, commissioned by the GDC, provides evidence, for the first time in the United Kingdom, about public attitudes to tooth whitening and patient safety. The research found very strong support for the GDC’s policies of regulating tooth whitening to protect patient safety and prosecuting illegal practice. Key findings from a representative opinion survey of UK residents, carried out for the GDC in December 2010 are:

  • 86% of those surveyed agreed that tooth whitening should only be carried out by registered, trained and qualified dental professionals. 4% disagreed.
  • More than eight out of ten thought that it should be illegal for anyone to carry out tooth whitening who isn’t a registered, trained and qualified dental professional. 5% disagreed.
  • 75% of the general public thought that the GDC should prosecute anyone practising tooth whitening illegally. 7% disagreed.

Who are we to disagree with the general public!

John Shapter
John Shapter

Dental Specialist


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