GDC Fights Tooth and Nail

05 November 2013

Author: Francesca Lowry
Practice Area: Healthcare
Sector: Healthcare

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With an ever-increasing cohort of the population in the UK, choosing to avail of tooth whitening, we must question who is and who should actually be providing this potentially hazardous treatment.

Is tooth whitening a procedure that requires the expertise of a qualified dentist or is it a cosmetic procedure that a properly trained beautician can perform? For many, the desire to transform their pearly yellows to pearly whites, often boils down simply to a question of cost.

To some extent, however, the decision has, however, been taken out of our hands.  

The recent case of Lorna Jamous, a qualified beautician, has confirmed that the practice of teeth whitening by anyone who is not regulated by the General Dental Council (‘the GDC’), is a criminal activity. The judgment in the initial prosecution, brought by the General Dental Council against Ms Jamous, stated that tooth whitening did not constitute the practice of dentistry. Had the status quo remained, this would have allowed those who were not qualified dentists (or hygienists / therapists acting under the prescription of a dentist) to perform teeth whitening treatment.

In May 2013, however, the High Court upheld an appeal by the General Dental Council. The High Court held that, contrary to the ruling of the Magistrates Court, tooth-whitening does constitute the practice of dentistry and, therefore, those who are not qualified as dentists and/ or regulated by the GDC are prohibited from providing any such treatment. It must only be carried out by a registered dentist, dental hygienist or a dental therapist who is working to a dentist’s prescription.   

Ms Jamous was convicted of practicing dentistry and unlawfully carrying on the business of dentistry when not regulated by the GDC. She was sentenced on 16th September 2013, being given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £350 towards the GDC’s costs at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The GDC has confirmed its ongoing commitment to stamping out the practice of illegal tooth whitening and has even begun working with Groupon, the ‘daily deals’ company to guard against the promotion of illegal tooth whitening.

No doubt we will not see a complete cessation of the practice of non-qualified dentists, hygienists and therapists providing this treatment. Although the sanction in this particular claim was not too severe, it is possible that if the practice of teeth whitening by non-qualified dentists, nurses or hygienists is not curbed, the punishments will become harsher. 

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