British children and teenagers under the age of 18 can have access to professional dental bleaching under new guidance from the General Dental Council (GDC).
The move was preceded by a two-year’s campaign by dentists, who under previous guidelines would have been subject to disciplinary action if they performed teeth whitening procedures to underage patients, based on an interpretation of EU legislation.
However, bleaching is still only recommended in special cases.
The updated GDC guidance states that products containing hydrogen peroxide in a concentration ranging between 0.1% and 6% cannot be applied to patients under the age 18, except for cases when such use “is intended wholly for the purpose of treating or preventing disease.”
According to Martin Kelleher, consultant in restorative dentistry at King’s College, the decision to allow dental bleaching to young patients was in line with calls for “evidence-based dentistry.”
For years, professionals have been warned not to use bleaching products when treating patients under 18; but in fact, scientific evidence has shown that the treatment was safe, effective and fully appropriate for use in low concentration, he told Dentistry.co.uk.
Kelleher, who is one of the leading campaigners against the prohibition, welcomed the council’s decision, claiming that the update in guidelines will allow all patients, regardless of their age, to benefit from the available options for treatment of discoloured teeth.
As well as being a sign of disease, discolouration of the teeth can be a serious problem for young people as it can become a cause for bullying, which may have serious psychological consequences for children and teenagers, he added.