I have been wanting to write this blog post for a while now as I feel like this is an issue which needs to be spread and known about. Some of you may have noticed from my tweets that I had booked a teeth whitening session from Groupon back in January with Naturawhite where I thought I was getting a great deal - £59 for a 1 hour appointment instead of £300. Turns out this isn't really a special offer at all, and is the standard rate as advertised on their Facebook page. But that's another issue altogether.
I had a routine dental appointment at the beginning of the month and when I mentioned my whitening appointment to my dentist, she seemed concerned about the legality and safety of it so I decided to investigate further. Their website is lacking in specific information about the whitening procedure which should serve as a warning sign straight away. They fail to provide information regarding the chemical agent used to lighten teeth, which is something that I, as a consumer, need to know. If it's going to be used in my mouth, I'd like to know what exactly it is. Through an email exchange, I did ask which bleaching agent they used and the question was avoided. I asked again, and was eventually given an answer. They use sodium perborate which is pending a ban by the EU and it is already banned for use in cosmetics in Japan. A quick Google search instantly brings up several webpages detailing this chemical. I feel like this information should be made immediately available to any consumer on the Naturawhite webpage. If they believe it is safe to use, why do they not disclose it openly?
The legality issue surrounding teeth whitening is often confused. New legislation came into place at the end of October 2012 which states that only GDC registered dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists may carry out dental procedures. There are also several regulations regarding the use of hydrogen peroxide - products containing or releasing hydrogen peroxide cannot be used on those under 18, tooth whitening products containing or releasing hydrogen peroxide are only legal up to the limit of 6% and must only be administered by a dental professional. I have seen Naturawhite state that the age limit for their whitening treatment is 16. Naturawhite advertise their whitening as non-peroxide but the fact is that sodium perborate breaks down into hydrogen peroxide of levels up to 35% in some cases. This is obviously much higher than the legal limit of 6%. They have 'dentists' listed on their website, but a quick General Dental Council search reveals that these 'dentists' do not exist on the GDC list of registered dentists. This company also offers training courses which allow you to become a 'bleaching technician' - a mickey mouse 'qualification' which does not mean that you are a dental professional. What this means if that you, me or anyone can walk off the street, take this course trained by non-GDC registered dentists and then whiten your teeth with an agent releasing a dangerously high level of hydrogen peroxide.
Having been in touch with Naturawhite, I was offered little reassurance. I was not aware of the solid facts at this point, and was more worried about my personal appointment in March. I received rude responses verging on aggressive, I was fed false information and misled to believe that the General Dental Council acts to protect dentists but actually, it is there to protect the public. Naturawhite led me to believe that GDC members are 'attacking' them because they are undercutting them in the market and offering teeth whitening at a much more competitive price. I have contacted Groupon to request a refund under the pretense that they are selling an illegal service and after several strongly worded email exchanges, I have been successful in getting a full refund.
The problem is, there is such a high abundance of these companies and individuals operating. Be particularly wary of beauty salons who may employ one of these 'trained bleaching technicians' to carry out teeth whitening. If the individual is not registered on the GDC register (ask for their registration number and check it) then they are performing teeth whitening illegally. There are plenty of other companies like Naturawhite operating around the UK. They will spout information about how what they are doing is legal and if it wasn't legal, they'd be shut down by now. The fact is, this legislation is still fairly recent and the GDC are faced with a huge backlog of investigations. They have been successful in shutting down similar companies, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of these companies are investigated and shut down.
I can't speak for other companies, but my experience with Naturawhite has been entirely negative. I was completely blocked from their Facebook page when I questioned the legality of their company. Surely if they have nothing to hide, they would answer any queries rather than deleting evidence of them and blocking the individual from saying any more. It is quite obvious to me that they do not want the word being spread about this industry. Yet they claim to have 100% positive reviews and to be doing no wrong - they have 100% positive reviews because they delete anything negative from their social media platforms. If they are doing no wrong, why are they so vague about the treatment and why do they not address the issue and inform their customers about what is going on? It doesn't make sense and is too suspicious, which just confirms my initial concerns.
I was sucked in by a tempting deal and I feel like these companies are exploiting that fact. We can't resist what we see as a bargain, but it's just not worth risking your dental health. Please, don't be fooled by these companies and spread the word.
I urge you to join this Facebook page dedicated to informing people of the dangers of these illegal tooth whitening companies and who are campaigning for action against them. They provide information, links to relevant information and organizations and support for those of us who have concerns: Stamp Out Illegal Tooth Whitening.