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Teeth Whitening at the Mall. Unsafe, but is it Illegal?

Aug 11, 2012
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Last Updated 8/11/2012 - On my latest trip to the mall I couldn't believe my eyes. There it was in the middle of a busy mall, a lady performing teeth whitening on a patient while inviting others to join on the other two chairs she had available. As a curious consumer, I asked how much the teeth whitening procedure costs. She said $99 and it's guaranteed for 4 shades lighter. If you think these procedures are being done by dentists, think again.

Teeth Whitening at mall kiosks are growing in popularity due to consumer convenience and naivety, and the ability for kiosk operators to quickly find willing customers. These kiosks are generally franchise owned, so they are not administered by dental professionals. They are not dentists, RDHs or RDAs, rather workers “dressed up” in medical garments to give people a false sense they are being treated by a dental professional. Besides the fact that one would look ridiculous doing this procedure in the middle of a busy mall, it is also dangerous. The catch that makes the process legal is that operators do not place the product in the “patient’s” mouth. Instead, the “patient” inserts the bleaching product themselves.

Undergoing professional teeth whitening at a kiosk can cause irreversible damages to your teeth. The bleach generally used at these kiosks consists of high concentration hydrogen carbamide peroxide, usually 35%. This is what dental offices use. The chemicals at this high of a concentration are extremely acidic, and if not properly administered, can ruin tooth enamel.

Professional teeth whitening should always be done under the supervision of a DDS: A Dentist assesses patients, and decides on the advisability of bleaching, and prediction of outcome for each patient. Furthermore, the dentist will have knowledge of the oral anatomy, principles of patient care, and the possible dangers involved: i.e (if gums are not adequately protected or if there is gum disease).

Update 3/6/2008
A Mall Teeth-Whitening Business has been Shut Down in South Carolina

A teeth-whitening business at Haywood Mall in Greenville has been ordered to shut down by state regulators who say that the operators are practicing dentistry without a license.

In issuing the order, the state regulators said that the light the business uses for teeth whitening is is so strong it is only allowed to be used by a licensed dentist.

A state dentistry official told WYFF News 4 that similar businesses are being shut down all across the country. 

Update 3/22/2008
ABC News released a video piece on this titled Teeth Whitening Kiosks at the Mall. It looks like these kiosk operators did not know what they were doing.

Update 8/11/2008
All Glamour White locations have been shut down in Oklahoma.
iSmile, located at Tulsa's Promenade Mall is still open, but have limited their staff to one employee and no longer wear white lab coats to give the appearance that they are following the law. Read more about it here.

Update 1/15/2009
Tennessee bans teeth whitening kiosks. The state now requires treatments to be performed only by licensed dentists, dental hygienists or registered dental assistants supervised by a dentist. Source

Update 3/16/2009
Alabama bans teeth whitening kiosks. Read more about it here.

Update 11/20/2009
The ADA has asked the FDA to evaluate teeth whitening product compounds for safety and classify them. Depending on the outcome of that evaluation, the whitening compounds could be available on an unrestricted, over-the-counter basis or, if determined to be at the upper end of risky, could be restricted to prescription-only availability.

"The tremendous expansion of products available directly to consumers and application of products in venues such as shopping malls, cruise ships, and salons is troubling since consumers have little or no assurance regarding the safety of product ingredients, doses or the professional qualifications of individuals employed in these non-dental settings, the letter states." Read more about it here.

View a recent ABC video showing uninformed mall kiosks

Update 2013
We've created a section specifically for mall/kiosk teeth whitening product on TWR. Check it out here:

Known Teeth Whitening Kiosk Businesses:
Da Vinci Whitening System
Laser Bright
Whitening USA
Beacming White
WOW Smile Xpress
Beaming White
Brite Impressions
Laser White Express


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