GDC Continue to Crack Down on Illegal Tooth Whitening Practices

Posted on the 13 May 2014 at 12:05

The General Dental Council (GDC), the UK regulator body for the dental profession, who legally require dentists and other dental care professionals, such as hygienists, therapists and nurses, to be registered with them in order to practice has again been cracking down on illegal tooth whitening operations.

The Dentists Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence for anyone other than a registered dental professional to carry out the ‘practice of dentistry’.

On 10th May 2013, the High Court ruled that tooth whitening is considered to be the practice of dentistry, which therefore means that it should only be undertaken by regulated dental professionals, irrespective of the products or devices utilised in the whitening system and the laws which govern those compositions. As such tooth whitening can only be done by a dentist or a dental therapist, dental hygienist or a clinical dental technician to the prescription of a dentist.

Since that point the GDC has been on a mission to protect the public from illegal tooth whitening operations and has successfully prosecuted a number of people.

It is important to note that prosecutions in relation to the use or sale of tooth whitening products which breach the regulations laid down in the EU Directive 76/768/EEC, such as excessively high levels of hydrogen peroxide etc., is the responsibility of UK Trading Standards and not the GDC. The GDC only takes legal action against individuals for the act of undertaking tooth whitening.

This process continues, at a pace it seems, with three more successful prosecutions in the last few weeks.

The first saw the GDC successfully prosecute two women in London for unlawfully practicing tooth whitening at 10, Harley Street, London in January 2014. Maggie Peachey pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to a fine of £750, victim surcharge of £100 and GDC costs of £1,000 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The second defendant, Jodie Evans pleaded guilty to two offences of the unlawful practice of tooth whitening and of holding herself as being prepared to practice dentistry (tooth whitening). She was sentenced to a 6 month conditional discharge, £15 victim surcharge and GDC costs of £200.

The second saw the GDC successfully prosecute a woman in Norwich for unlawfully practicing tooth whitening at Oasis Sport and Leisure Complex in January 2014. Catherine Davies pleaded guilty to the offences of practicing dentistry (tooth whitening) and carrying on the business of dentistry at Norwich Magistrates’ Court. She was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge, £15 victim surcharge, GDC costs of £300 and £99 compensation to the complainant.

Finally, the third saw the GDC successfully prosecute a woman in Lancaster for unlawfully practicing tooth whitening at Vanity Salon in Lancaster. Hayley Wilding pleaded guilty to the offences of practicing dentistry (tooth whitening) and carrying on the business of dentistry at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court. She was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge, £15 victim surcharge and GDC costs of £1,604.

It’s clear the GDC is taking this seriously, and is actively and rapidly pursuing cases where a complaint has been made to them about illegal tooth whitening businesses. This is of course reactive policing, rather than proactive, but is still policing and ending in successful prosecutions; the kind that gives you a criminal record!

One Cosmetic Doctor, commenting on this news on Twitter noted how the GDC’s legal ammunition trumps that of the General Medical Council (GMC), who regulate UK doctors, including cosmetic practitioners; “dentists have clear protection for their patients. Is there an 'unlawfully practising medicine' equivalent?

The GDC has also been actively working with online daily voucher deal site Groupon since last summer to guard against the promotion of illegal tooth whitening.

But, taking a step back for a moment... We all know that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, but on the flipside it would seem that many ‘beauty professionals’ are being lured into franchises and business opportunities by companies selling tooth whitening equipment who are not being all together accurate with the truth about the ‘practice of dentistry’, or who are relying on loop-holes and vagaries in definitions to sell their wares to beauty audiences.

MegaWhite at Pro beauty Show

Journalist Andrew Penman from The Daily Mirror has covered this trend and has been quite vocal about what he views as this deceitful practice. Back in March he told the story of beautician Caroline Sumpter who paid Megawhite Express Teeth Whitening £1,500 for their tooth whitening set up, only to be told by the GDC that the practice is illegal.

Caroline asked Megawhite for her money back, on the grounds that “what they don’t tell you is that unless you are a registered dental professional you cannot legally use the system”. The company refused, so along with Caroline, Mr Penman decided to doorstep the Megawhite Director, Bryan Christie at the Professional Beauty show at the Excel in London.

Bryan Christie’s response, with regard to his product, was that his licensees are not performing dentistry. They are giving a product to customers who ‘self-administer’ it by putting the whitener in their mouths while sitting in front of a blue light to accelerate the process. “We are not performing teeth whitening, customers are doing it themselves”; he was quoted as saying.

The Megawhite website also proudly states;  “...our system is a retail teeth whitening product that is self-administered by your customers. You do not need any dental experience to sell this product, just a desire for financial gain.

Megawhite Express is a fully self-administered product. The clients follow the instructions on the packet, allowing them to perform the treatment from start to finish. However, Megawhite provides training material that covers all commonly-asked questions so you will have in-depth product knowledge and be able to sell Megawhite to your clients with complete confidence.

This supposed loophole, which the company believe circumvents the law, is being widely utilised when ‘selling’ the licenses and franchises to beauty businesses.

However, the GDC maintains that within the Dentists Act it is considered illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to give ‘treatment, advice or attendance’ that would usually be given by a dentist. Therefore they argue that handing a member of the public a tooth whitening tray with gel and advising them on its application, or responding to questions which they may ask, amongst other things, could constitute the giving of ‘advice or attendance’ as part of the practice of dentistry and would therefore be illegal for many of the individuals being sold systems such as Megawhite

A further story this month by Andrew Penman, talked of Marie Cook who bought a £1,150 business start-up package from Impression Teeth Whitening of Sheffield. Despite the sales pitch assuring her that ‘no dental experience is needed thanks to the new teeth whitening technology sweeping the world’, she was forced to stop when the GDC told her that she was breaking the law and could face prosecution if she continued. The company refused to give her a refund or make further comment.

So, should there be more of a crackdown on the distributors and suppliers of teeth whitening equipment and license/franchise opportunities? 

Does the government need to give the GDC or Trading Standards more teeth to allow it to take action against those companies who are at the start of the supply chain in this process, or should those interested in adding tooth whitening to their salon businesses have the sense to realise, or do due diligence to find out, that they simply don’t have the necessary qualifications instead of being blinded by talk of potential profits?

There are many regulatory concerns in all aspects of cosmetic medicine, cosmetic dentistry and beauty with many ‘grey’ areas which regulators are still trying to get on top of. One hopes that the more prosecutions the GDC succeeds with, the more chance there is of the message reaching non-dental professionals before the sale reps from the teeth whitening companies do.

The GDC has produced a number of FAQS which look at the practice of tooth whitening and the issues surrounding its legality.

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Blog Comment(s) [11]

Very good article that sums up the problem with the current situation.

The companies that are "training" up the salon owners and beauticians are knowingly exposing them to a criminal record and large fine. Surely they should be stopped.

It seems that Brian Christie is liquidating his Megawhite/Dentawhite company to avoid various legal claims that are being brought against him, but has just opened a new series of limited companies to continue trading. Classic signs of a con man!

There is a great Facebook group made up of people that have been ripped off by teeth whitening companies - they are trying to raise public awareness of the laws + dangers, and stop other people being ripped off by these unscrupulous traders.


We would agree that the suppliers of these products need to be taken to task over their misleading selling strategies.

Thank you for your feedback on this subject, both enlightening and useful to others interested in this subject. We will certainly keep reporting on it and maintaining awareness for all sides, public and practitioners.

Lorna Jackson |

Thank you for writing this informative article to highlight the unscrupulous business of illegal teeth whitening that is currently being allowed to continue. I am one of many who foolishly believed everything that Megawhite told me when I bought their product. It is only now after close liaisons with the GDC and trading standards that I can now see it as a form of brainwashing, just so they could get their hands on my money. I am grateful to the GDC for all their help support and advice and of course Andrew Penman for continuing to follow this subject with such enthusiasm.

Caroline sumpter

I think you too have done a lot to highlight this issue from the side of beauty practitioners Caroline, something which hasn't been told before.

It shows that it's not just the public who are vulnerable to teeth whitening operations by non-dental professionals but also just how easy it is for company's to try to baffle non-dental practitioners and business owners, via perceived loopholes in the law, to parting with hard earned money for such a business opportunity. We too will do our best to highlight the concerns that blight this topic. Thank you for sharing and I hope you get a successful resolution one day.

Lorna Jackson |

Thank you Lorna for your support, this recent publication has cheered me up no end. Brian Christie can no longer claim that 'no Megawhite stockist has ever be prosecuted', and it is one of the highest fines imposed by the GDC to date.

Illegal tooth whitener fined fifteen thousand pounds
26 August 2014

Illegal tooth whitener fined fifteen thousand pounds

The UK regulator of dental practice, the General Dental Council (GDC), has successfully prosecuted a Wirral-based man for unlawfully practising dentistry.

On 26 August 2014 Wayne Roberts was found guilty at Wirral Magistrates’ Court of two offences of unlawful dentistry (namely tooth whitening), contrary to section 38 (1) and (2) of the Dentists Act 1984 and one offence of unlawful use of title, namely ‘Dental Technician’, contrary to section 39 (1) and (3).

Mr Roberts didn’t attend court.

He’s been fined £5000 on each count (a total of £15,000) and ordered to pay a £500 victim surcharge. Mr Roberts was also ordered to pay full costs to the GDC of £3167.25.

The offences took place at Caldy Clinic, 161 Banks Road, West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside, CH48 3HU and Caldy Clinic, 49 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 9EW.

Mr Roberts is linked to the provision of illegal tooth whitening using the ‘Megawhite’ brand of products.

By law, only dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and clinical dental technicians (working to the prescription of a dentist) can carry out tooth whitening.

By law all dentists, dental nurses, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians, dental hygienists, dental therapists and orthodontic therapists must be registered with the GDC to work in the UK. This is to ensure only appropriately qualified and skilled dental professionals are part of the dental team looking after patients.


Caroline Sumpter

Indeed Caroline.

This certainly sets a clear precedent for the use of this brand and the claims by the company that it can be supplied by non-dentists as there is no 'hands-on' treatment. They surely can't keep trying to sell this to non-GDC members for profit.

I am keeping a close eye on this subject.

Lorna Jackson |

Lorna I thought you might be interested to know that the BBC1 programme Rip Off Britain was sufficiently interested in my plight and contacted me regarding Megawhite. The programme is due to air on BBC1 at 9.15am on Monday 6th October 2014. Please note I have no idea how this will have been edited as there was over 6 hours of filming that took place. I am as interested as you to see the final finished episode. Kind Regards Caroline Sumpter - excuse my chubby face as this was 3 days post impacted wisdom tooth extraction!

Caroline Sumpter

Thanks for the update Caroline. I will watch this programme with interest and no doubt cover it in social media updates. This is certainly a hot topic at the moment and one that I am actively discussing with many people. Appreciate you letting us know.

(Impacted wisdom tooth extraction....ouch! Hope you're all healed now.)

Lorna Jackson |

I was also taken in by Mega white last year and paid £3,000 for a package given a license and told this is another service I can offer my clients. I am a very small salon in a rural area and now can't sell anymore as it was a service I was to offer not a self administer job.
I have repeatedly sent emails to Mega white asking for a refund but no response can anyone help and point me in the right direction

Sarah Bradbury

Illegal whitening has been an issue which needed a good attention. The problem became more prominent after the legal notices. There is always a risk in trusting unqualified beautician for tooth whitening and your smiles. If you go for qualified dentist he will not only carry out proper treatment but will also suggest after tooth whitening tips. if people stop going for illegal tooth whitening treatments. the beauticians will stop offering such services.

whitchurch dentist

In my career I have seen patients coming to me after taking these illegal treatments and having side effects , I suggest people not to fall for such false practices