Tooth Whitening Update

Tooth Whitening Update

(07 Feb 2012)

Legislation is expected to be enacted in Ireland by next October which will finally bring some certainty in regulating the sourcing and use of tooth whitening products.

The legislation is required to give effect to an amended EU Council directive which was adopted late last year.

The Irish Dental Association welcomed the passing of the Directive which regulates the use of hydrogen peroxide, the chemical used in tooth whitening products.

It prohibits the use of tooth whitening products containing over 6% of hydrogen peroxide and stipulates that for products containing between 0.1% and 6%, a clinical examination and first treatment by a dentist will be required to ensure the absence of risk factors or oral pathologies, after which the patient will be able to continue the treatment by him or herself. The use of these products by persons younger than 18 years will not be allowed.

We understand it will still be permissible to use products with up to 18% Carbamide peroxide (CP)

(As a rule of thumb, if you divide the CP % content by a factor of 3 you obtain the % of active Hydrogen Peroxide (HP)


Tooth whitening products containing up to 0.1% of hydrogen peroxide will continue to be made available to consumers on the market.

We understand that the Irish Medicines Board will shortly embark on a public awareness campaign and is also planning to target what are deemed high risk providers (e.g. beauty clinics, hair salons) by way of inspections to enforce these new regulations.

We also understand that the Dental Council will write shortly to registered dentists advising them of the details of the new regulations and their implications for dental practice.

The Council of European Dentists - of which the Irish Dental Association is a member - had called repeatedly for appropriate regulation of tooth whitening products at EU level, in line with the advice from the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.

Dr Tom Feeney, IDA representative on the Council of European Dentists, and a Dublin based dentist says the new measures enhanced patient safety and removed uncertainty as to how and by whom tooth whitening should be performed in the EU.

"Patient safety is the number one priority. To be effective a tooth whitening product has to have over 3% hydrogen peroxide and the new regulations from the European Council prohibit products containing over 6% hydrogen peroxide. The new regulations ensure that properly 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" Feeney said.

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.

"Tooth whitening is a safe procedure if carried out by a dentist but it's a procedure which shouldn't be repeated too often. As a rough guide once a year should be sufficient. We don't recommend it for pregnant women or heavy smokers or drinkers as it can cause particular problems for each of these groups" Feeney concluded.

Further information and advice to members of the Irish Dental Association will be made available following circulation of the contents of the Statutory Instrument which will be published to give effect to these changes which arise from agreement at the EU Council of Ministers last October.

If members are in any doubt you are advised to contact IDA House for more information.