Teeth-whitening Treatments

Health written question – answered on 4th September 2006.

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Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) whether her Department has (a) conducted and (b) evaluated research into the safe level of hydrogen peroxide in teeth-whitening treatments;

(2) what discussions she has had with interested parties on proposals from the European Commission to raise the safe level of hydrogen peroxide in over-the-counter teeth-whitening treatments from 0.1 per cent. to 6 per cent.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton The Minister of State, Department of Health

The European Union scientific committee on cosmetics and consumer products (SCCP) was asked to review the safety of increasing the percentage of hydrogen peroxide in over the counter tooth whitening products from 0.1 per cent. to 6 per cent. This report published in March 2005 outlined and reviewed all the relevant research into the safe levels hydrogen peroxide used in tooth whitening and concluded that in the opinion of SCCP:

the use of tooth whitening products up to 0.1 per cent, hydrogen peroxide is safe; the proper use of tooth whitening products containing greater than 0.1 per cent, to 6 per cent, hydrogen peroxide, or equivalent for hydrogen peroxide releasing substances, is considered safe after consultation with and approval of the consumer's dentist. Tooth whitening is not recommended prior to or immediately after dental restoration and care should be taken by persons with gingivitis and other periodontal diseases or defective restorations; there is an absence of good clinical data and long-term epidmiological studies that assess possible adverse effects within the oral cavity; and new additional data supplied does not provide the necessary reassurance in terms of risk assessment to support that safety of hydrogen peroxide up to 6 per cent. in tooth whitening products freely and directly available to the consumer.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department have noted and support the outcome of the committee's findings.

Tooth whitening products are cosmetic products and are therefore not provided as part of the national health service in meeting patients' reasonable clinical needs.

Tooth whitening products, along with other oral hygiene products are regulated by the Cosmetics Directive, implemented in the United Kingdom in the Cosmetic Product (Safety) Regulations. The European Commission and member states are currently considering how the SCCP opinion can be implemented to allow consumers to buy products containing up to 6 per cent. hydrogen peroxide. Any proposal will address the concerns of the SCCP including requiring industry to conduct epidemiological studies to assess the long-term effects of usage of this type of product.

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