Ken Harris

Top dentist warns illegal teeth whitening is nothing to smile about

The UK’s most qualified cosmetic dentist has warned that teeth whitening treatments being carried out at beauty salons could cause serious damage.

And non-qualified practitioners offering laser and bleaching procedures on teeth could also face prosecution because they are breaking the law.

Under the regulations set out by the General Dental Council, teeth whitening and bleaching procedures can only be legally performed by qualified dental professionals.

But Dr Ken Harris, of Riveredge Cosmetic Dentistry in Sunderland and Newcastle, is concerned about the dangers facing people looking for a “quick fix” teeth whitening - including those who have even tried using kitchen scouring power and liquid toilet cleaner.

Dr Harris, who runs the award-winning practice and is the country’s most qualified cosmetic dentist, believes rising demand for a quick result has led to an overwhelming number of beauty salons and back street tooth whitening parlours carrying out treatments illegally.

“Laser bleaching and other whitening procedures need to be very carefully carried out “ said Dr Harris. “These procedures, while perfectly capable of giving people the results they want, can cause serious damage to teeth if not performed correctly.

“Over time our teeth darken as a result of the dentine beneath our enamel getting tougher at which point teeth whitening procedures can help to brighten your smile.

“Understandably people are looking for quick and cheap fixes to an aesthetic problem which is why so many people opt for alternative practitioners. However more often than not poorly performed procedures can cause more harm than good.”

Regulations came into force in 2012 which meant that tooth whitening or bleaching products which contain between 0.1 per cent - 6 per cent hydrogen peroxide could not be used by anyone other than professionals registered with the GDC.

Dr Harris is concerned that people buying home treatments from the internet or having them carried out at the hairdressers or a beauty salon could be leaving them at best spending money on something that doesn’t work or at worst with a whole host of problems.

“Wild claims are made for all kinds of tooth whitening products, but only compounds of hydrogen peroxide will actually bleach teeth,” he said.

“Anything else will just not work despite claims that they do.

“The safest compound is Carbarmide Peroxide gel at a 10 per cent concentration. Higher concentrations do not make teeth whiter and will damage teeth, although concentrations of up to 50 per cent are available on the internet and can cause real problems if used.”

Dr Harris is recommending anyone considering tooth whitening needs to talk to a dentist or check with the General Dental Council at “to see if you are being treated safely and legally.”

Ken Harris, who has over 30 years’ experience as a dentist, passed his MSc in Restorative & Aesthetic Dentistry (with distinction) last year, which added to his BACD Fellowship makes him amongst the most qualified cosmetic dentists in the country.

He is currently one of only two accredited fellows of the BACD (British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry) and holds full membership of BAAD (British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry). He is a member of the AACD (American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry) and acts as UK clinical director for the California Center for Advanced Dental Studies in San Francisco.

For more information about Riveredge Cosmetic Dentistry and for advice on teeth whitening treatments visit

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