The Sunday Times: Style investigates the illegal teeth-whitening industry

I sit back nervously in the dentist’s chair. “My teeth are pretty sensitive,” I mutter. The cold gel hits my enamel and I gasp. Suddenly, I regret letting my narcissism get the better of me. Again.

The cliché about Brits is that we have terrible teeth. But the Hollywood smile once reserved for celebrities, now sparkles from every screen. The desire for a blinding smile has spawned a dazzling industry in teeth whitening, from at-home kits, trays, pens, serums and stick-on strips to celebrity Harley Street dentists charging thousands. The market research company Mintel values the UK cosmetic dentistry industry at £2bn, and another recent report found that, on average, British men and women spend 11% more a month on their teeth than their skincare. But in this white rush, many consumers are unaware that some of the treatments being offered are not merely dangerous, they are illegal.

Dentist Dr Richard Marques has seen the demand for whitening grow exponentially over the past few years. “It’s the selfies,” he says, flashing his own brilliant grin. “People have never looked at themselves or each other so much.” Now they come in asking for celebrity smiles just as we ask hairdressers for cuts. “I had a patient who said, ‘I want Ross from Friends,’ ” he says.

Not all those trying teeth whiteners are bleachorexics, of course. Most want nothing more than a subtly brighter-looking version of the colour they have. “White teeth are associated with youth, vitality. People trust people with white teeth more,” Marques says. However, he worries that the growing demand for teeth whitening is fuelling a market in unregulated treatments.

In the UK, teeth whitening can be carried out legally only by a dental professional registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). There are two methods available. The first and most expensive is carried out in the clinic and involves a solution of hydrogen peroxide and either a laser or LED. Results are near-instantaneous and prices in London range from £600 to £1,000. The second requires specially moulded trays and a similar, albeit weaker, formula that can be dispensed and administered at home. The best results come after approximately two weeks, and prices start at about £300.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/style-investigates-the-illegal-teeth-whitening-industry-tvhsnpfqp

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