Proposal to regulate teeth-whitening products

17:00, Apr 12 2011

Consumers will be advised to visit their dentist before using some types of mouthwash if a proposal to regulate teeth-whitening products goes ahead.

The proposal, being considered by the Environmental Risk Management Authority, will also force the removal of DIY teeth-whitening gels from supermarket shelves.

However, the Dental Council and the Health Ministry – the proposal's authors – say the changes are needed to protect consumers from the risks associated with using products that contain hydrogen peroxide.

The Dental Council told Erma's hearing committee yesterday that the use of hydrogen peroxide in dental products was unregulated at present.

That meant anyone – including individual consumers and non-dental professionals such as beauticians – could buy and apply whitening gels.

At concentrations higher than 3.6 per cent, there was an increased danger of adverse effects, including gum bleaching and chemical burns, council chairman Professor Robert Love said.


For now, Erma has backed the proposal's recommendation that whitening systems using concentrations higher than 3.6 per cent should only be supplied by dentists, who are subject to strict professional regulation.

Concentrations lower than that could still be bought over the counter or supplied by non-dental professionals, but Erma has recommended to the committee that the gels should be labelled with a warning not to use them for more than 14 days in a row without seeing a dentist first.

However, opposing submitters said that would mean the warning would also apply to some mouthwashes and toothpastes that contain low levels of hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent.

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said most people bought mouthwash to use on a daily basis and it should be exempt from the proposal. "If you're going to put that [warning] on a Listerine bottle, consumers are going to get confused."

It was absurd to recommend people see a dentist for something they did as part of their normal daily oral hygiene routine, she said.

Dr Love admitted the Dental Council had not considered mouthwashes and toothpastes when it was drafting the proposal. "The Listerine product with hydrogen peroxide in it ... wouldn't hit the definition of a teeth-bleaching agent, I don't think."

The committee will issue its final decision next month.

The Dominion Post