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The Latest Twist In Teeth Whitening

The Latest Twist In Teeth Whitening

CREATED Jul 8, 2010

By Jennifer Kraus
Consumer Investigator

If you've been thinking about getting your teeth whitened, you now have more options. But, dentists say that's not necessarily a good thing.

A NewsChannel 5 investigation first exposed problems with some teeth whitening businesses, and our story prompted the state to shut these businesses down. But now anyone is allowed to whiten your teeth, and some say that could be a problem.

At the Skin & Beyond Day Spa in Franklin, you can get a massage, a facial, your nails manicured, and even your teeth whitened.

 "It's very popular, especially with pedicures," said Spa manager Nathaly Suarez.

The whitening gels they use at this spa are stronger than what you'd buy at the grocery store, but not quite as strong as you'd get in a dentist's office.

But, again this is a spa. And, dentists say this is no place to whiten teeth.

"You can't just put solution in a tray and stick it in somebody's mouth," Dr. Ellen Shemancik, a Nashville area dentists, said.

It wasn't that long ago that NewsChannel 5 Investigates went undercover at teeth whitening kiosks at the mall. The employees at these kiosks were not dentists, yet, during our investigation, we often found them doing things that only dentists are supposed to do.

Our investigation prompted the Tennessee Board of Dentistry to unanimously approve a rule stating that only licensed dentists can whiten teeth.

But, now in a confidential memo to the Department of Health that NewsChannel 5 Investigates got a copy of, the Attorney General writes that the rule would not survive a legal challenge and that it is essentially unenforceable because the Dental Board doesn't have the authority to make such rules.

So this means that you can now get your teeth whitened again pretty much anywhere.

Dentists like Dr. Shemancik warn that consumers can run into serious problems if they're not careful where they go and don't have their gums and teeth checked first.

"Do they (consumers) have broken down teeth where this solution can go into the teeth and cause burning, can cause gum irritation, can cause nerve destruction?" Shemancik cautioned.

"I haven't had any complaints," Nathaly Suarez shared at the day spa in Franklin.

Suarez said she's worked in a dental office and is a licensed dental assistant, but she doesn't check her customers' teeth.

"Usually people know when they have a problem," added Suarez.

Suarez insisted that what she offers is perfectly safe, but she's well aware of what is out there.

"I had friends that used to go there (teeth whitening kiosks at the mall) and people get their gums burned. There were people that were not even using gloves. It was very unsanitary," Suarez recalled.

Investigators for the state dental board had ten cases they were pursuing where they'd found non-dentists were whitening teeth. They'd been planning on taking enforcement action against these folks. But now because of this opinion from the AG, they been told to throw those cases out.

Groups like the Tennessee Dental Association say they'll ask state lawmakers when they reconvene in January to make it part of the law that says only dentists can whiten teeth. The folks in the teeth whitening industry though are promising a fight.

E-mail: jkraus@newschannel5.com

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