Cosmetic dental treatments have become one of the most popular forms of aesthetic treatment in the last few years, with estimates from Reports and Data suggesting that the global cosmetic dentistry market may be worth more than $35 billion by 2027.
Teeth whitening is often seen as a particularly appealing treatment option, providing recipients with a simple way of improving the look of their smile without needing to undergo any kind of intensive procedure. Indeed, it is certainly true that teeth whitening is a safe and effective process in most cases – but this does not mean that the procedure does not carry risks.
As a legal expert at opens in a new windowGraham Coffey & Co. Solicitors I will discuss some of the main risks associated with teeth whitening treatments, in order to help those considering this form of treatment to make more educated decisions.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening is generally a fairly straightforward process, in which a dentist will create a custom opens in a new windowmouth guard using an impression of the patient’s teeth. This mouth guard is then used to apply a special bleaching gel, and is designed to be worn for several hours at a time to allow the gel to take effect.
After applying the gel for a period of several weeks – or even as little as one week, in cases where the gel and mouth guard are suitable to be worn for longer periods at a time – the appearance of the teeth will become much whiter and cleaner. This effect can last anywhere from a few months to around three years, depending on the individual and their personal habits.
Alternatively, laser-based teeth whitening treatments are also available, in which a bleaching agent is painted on the teeth before a laser is shone on to them to activate the whitening process. Laser whitening takes about an hour per session, with several sessions usually required to achieve the desired results.
How Can Teeth Whitening Go Wrong?
Most tooth whitening procedures carried out by qualified professionals are successful, and deliver satisfying results for patients. However, there can be a number of reasons why this treatment can go wrong, resulting in negative outcomes:
- Tooth sensitivity – if the bleaching chemicals used in tooth whitening are left on the teeth for too long or applied incorrectly, they can damage the enamel of the teeth. This will cause them to become painfully sensitive, creating pain when consuming hot, cold or sweet food and drinks.
- Gum damage – if the whitening chemicals come into contact with the gums, it can cause irritation and pain. In more severe cases, this can even lead to tissue burns and receding gums, which in turn can result in teeth being lost.
- Chemical burns and sickness – if the chemicals are applied incorrectly, they can leak out to other parts of the mouth, causing chemical burns and an associated risk of infections. If swallowed accidentally, this creates the risk of burns to the throat or stomach, as well as sickness.
- Under or over-bleaching – if the whitening chemicals are used in the wrong quantity or for the wrong amount of time, the effects may not be satisfactory, either because the treatment is ineffective, or because the teeth end up looking too white.
These risks are much less likely when the teeth whitening process is carried out by a trained dentist with a high level of expertise. Beauty salons will often offer whitening services, but this is much more dangerous, as these staff often lack the proper training – and as a result, it is illegal for them to provide this kind of treatment in many countries.
opens in a new windowHome tooth whitening kits can also be purchased, but these too carry much more risk than a professional service, as do opens in a new windownatural, homemade solutions such as brushing the teeth with lemon juice or baking soda.
What Can I Do if Teeth Whitening Goes Wrong?
If you are unhappy with the results of a teeth whitening treatment, it may be necessary to consult with a qualified dental practitioner to see what can be done to correct the damage.
If you believe the substandard results were the consequence of low-quality or negligent care provided to you, then you should also consider reporting the provider to the industry body
responsible for regulating dental care in your area. This will ensure they are held accountable for their actions – especially if it transpires that they have been providing their whitening services illegally.
Additionally, it could be worth getting in touch with a solicitor with experience in handling cosmetic dentistry claims, as this could help you to claim compensation for any pain, suffering and inconvenience you have experienced.
By keeping the potential risks of teeth whitening treatments in mind and knowing what to do if something does go wrong, it should be possible for you to make an informed decision on treatment and get the best possible results.
Stuart Snape has more than 18 years’ experience in the legal sector, with extensive experience in all aspects of civil litigation. During this time, he has helped hundreds of individuals to claim damages after suffering that was caused by the negligence of another party.