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New Regulations for Tooth Whitening come into force today

(31 Oct 2012)

A new European Council Directive which regulates the use of hydrogen peroxide - the chemical used in tooth whitening products – comes into force from today (Wednesday 31st Oct). 

Tooth whitening products containing over 6% of hydrogen peroxide are now illegal and their sale is prohibited, while tooth whitening is restricted to those over 18 years of age.

The new directive has been welcomed by the Irish Dental Association. 

From now on consumers may only be sold products containing a limit of 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. Products containing more than 0.1% and up to 6% can only be administered in the first instance by a dentist, and thereafter on the prescription of a dentist. 

Dr Tom Feeney, the IDA representative on the Council of European Dentists, said the new regulations enhance patient safety by stipulating how and by whom tooth whitening should be carried out. 

“If someone wants to have their teeth whitened they will have to have a clinical examination and first treatment by a dentist. The dentist must examine the patient to determine whether tooth whitening is a suitable treatment option and to ensure the absence of risk factors in the mouth. After that the patient will be able to continue the treatment by him or herself. 

The new regulations ensure that qualified dentists are carrying out what is a dental procedure, that safe products are being used and that the treatment is restricted to those over 18” Dr Feeney said. 

Dr Feeney also pointed out that tooth whitening should not be repeated too often – at most once a year as a general guide. After first use, when topping up, a much smaller amount of bleaching product is required to restore the desired result. Dr Feeney also said the procedure is not recommended for pregnant women or for heavy smokers or drinkers as it can cause particular problems for each of these groups. 

The IDA had previously warned of the dangers of some products available via the internet which contain very high levels of hydrogen peroxide and which could be lethal in the wrong hands. At the other end of the scale some products contain very low levels of hydrogen peroxide and the IDA says these are ineffective. 

Anyone who directly imports a tooth-whitening product from outside the EU may be considered to be the responsible person and therefore legally accountable for ensuring that the product is in compliance with the legislation. 

The Irish Medicines Board and the Health Services Executive will co-ordinate and police activities in this area, initially focusing on products sold directly to consumers and illegal products that contain in excess of 6% hydrogen peroxide. 

ENDS. 

Note to Editor 

Certain information should be present on the label of tooth whitening products i.e., name and address of the responsible person, weight/volume, best before date, precautions for use, batch number, etc. – please check the Dental Council/IMB notice for the exact requirements; 

The rounded conversion value of 6% hydrogen peroxide is 17% carbamide peroxide;