Should over the counter teeth whitening be outlawed or encouraged?

Dentist’s, dental associations, and hygienist are constantly up in arms about the availability of over the counter teeth whitening. Their argument is that only a dentist should be able to offer and supply teeth whitening products due to safety concerns. Common concerns expressed by dentist are that not everyone is a candidate for teeth whitening which is true; however not everyone is a candidate for aspirin or Sudafed either which is why manufacturers include a warning label on all packaging highlighting who should not consume the product. Imagine if every time we had a stuffy nose or headache we were forced to pay $200 to see a doctor and receive a prescription for Sudafed or Aspirin. Well this is comparable to the unreasonable demands made by dentist nationwide. The basis of their argument is that 97 complaints were submitted against over the counter teeth whitening products; however what is failed to be highlighted is that 94 of the 97 complaints came from dentists.

Teeth whitening is a low risk cosmetic product which more than 90% of the general adult population is a candidate for and the risk of a non candidate using teeth whitening is NOT life threatening.

Who’s a candidate for teeth whitening?

Nearly everyone with exception to those with severely damaged tooth enamel or existing cavities and the worst case scenario for a non candidate who uses teeth whitening product is tooth sensitivity. What’s the risk for a person who should not consume aspirin? Death. So what dentists are saying is that while we can purchase aspirin without a prescription, we should not be able to purchase teeth whitening products without it being directly from a dentist.

Why are dentist up in arms over a relatively harmless issue?

Simply put they want a monopoly on a large revenue generator. The average dentist will markup teeth whitening treatments 1,000-3,000%; however due to the increasing availability of whitening strips, online custom teeth whitening trays, kiosk whitening treatments, and teeth whitening gel their market for those willing to spare this large sum of cash is diminishing. Imagine you’re a dentist who on average sold 2 teeth whitening treatments a day at an average of $1,000 each. This equates to $10,000 a week, $40,000 a month, or $480,000 a year. This certainly affects their bottom line drastically when the general public is purchasing the same treatment for less than $100. Perhaps it;s time for dentists to care about real medical matters versus cosmetic demands which can be met by non medical personnel.

Erin Stelbrink
Erin Stelbrink is a Registered Dental Hygienist with 11+ years of experience as a licensed hygienist and oral health care professional. She holds a passion for researching and acquiring awareness of the latest technologies and methods for providing valuable health care service and clinical treatment. Have more questions? Email Erin at