IDA welcomes whitening decision

European regulations. New agreement is finalised after four years of lobbying by the Council of European Dentists

New regulations on the availability and use of tooth whitening products have been agreed by the European Commission and welcomed by the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

The new regulations mean that products containing more than 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide cannot be provided directly to the consumer. Products containing more than 0.1 but less than six per cent hydrogen peroxide will only be available to patients following examination and initial treatment provided or supervised by a dentist. Products with more than six per cent hydrogen peroxide remain illegal to use.

The agreement comes on the back of four years of lobbying by the Council of European Dentists (CED) following the recommendations put forward by the European Union's Scientific Committee on Consumer Products in 2007.

Tom Feeney, Dublin-based dentist and IDA representative on the CED, said the new measures enhanced patient safety and removed uncertainty as to how and by whom tooth whitening should be performed in the EU.

He said: "Patient safety is the number one priority. To be effective, a tooth whitening product has to have more than three per cent hydrogen peroxide and the new regulations from the European Council prohibit products containing over six per cent hydrogen peroxide.

"The new regulations ensure that only properly qualified dentists are carrying out what is a dental procedure, that safe products are being used, and that the treatment is restricted to those over 18."

The association has previously warned of the dangers of purchasing certain products online, with some containing potentially lethally high doses of hydrogen peroxide and others containing levels that are so low as to be ineffective.

"Tooth whitening is a safe procedure if carried out by a dentist but it's a procedure which shouldn't be repeated too often. As a rough guide once a year should be sufficient. We don't recommend it for pregnant women or heavy smokers or drinkers as it can cause particular problems for each of these groups," Feeney concluded.

Member States will have 12 months to transpose the new directive into national legislation after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.