Believe the Booth: Teeth Whitening, Uncertainty and Lasers

Teeth Whitening BoothsTeeth whitening is turning more into a dental flourish than a dental procedure. As far as aesthetic treatments go, teeth whitening a la carte may be an effective idea –assuming the treatment itself is effective in the first place.

The Blue-Lit Guilt

Booths from quick fix whitening companies began popping up all over the country in 2010. That year saw a record number of curious shoppers and passers-by lured by the promise of whiter teeth in one sitting. One has to admit, ‘laser whitening’ at the mall at least succeeds in piquing a person’s interest. This is despite the procedure not involving lasers at all, and the Advertising Standards Authority did not skip a beat in showing the fetchingly-named company All White 3000 why this type of promotion cannot fly.

The procedure is simple enough that a dentist would feel underwhelmed (and even guilty) conducting it. The attendant would lather a whitening gel on the teeth of their ‘patient’, before exposing the teeth to ‘a very healthy blue light’, which supposedly activated the gel and sped up the whitening process. It resembles cosmetic treatment in its simplicity. It very well may be, and individuals providing these teeth whitening services are fighting to make the classification so.

The Cosmetic Guise

In 2001, the House of Lords actually classified teeth whitening as a cosmetic procedure rather than a medical one. This ruling has since been the leg on which express teeth whitening companies have stood on, despite the shady nature of their service.

Dentists from Stockport’s Unidental mention the booth companies’ refusal to disclose their whitening gel’s ingredients as a very concerning red flag. They say that no matter how effective a whitening product is, there has to be a way to predict its effects on surfaces besides a person’s teeth. Once these gels reach the gums, the rest of the mouth or worse—are ingested, patients must know the chemical make-up of the gel to cure themselves. Disclosing the ingredients would also provide patients with a chance to actually make an informed decision, rather than sitting on a chair, blue light between their lips, hoping for the best.

‘How can you give consent if you don't know what chemicals are being used?’ says Stuart Johnson from the British Dental Association. ‘It's going to whiten your teeth, so it has to have some fairly robust chemistry to it. This is a chemical that hasn't been defined, so that really would concern me,’ he says.