Get advice on tooth whiteners, public told

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2005, 12:00am

Professional advice should be sought before resorting to home-use tooth-whitening products, the Consumer Council says.

Its publicity and community relations chairman, Matthew Ng, said bleaching agents found in most tooth-whitening products, such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, could lead to side effects such as sensitive teeth and irritation of soft tissue in the mouth, particularly the gums.

Safe limits had been set in Europe and the US on the amount of hydrogen peroxide such over-the-counter products could contain.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products of the European Commission said tooth-whitening products containing up to 0.1 per cent hydrogen peroxide were considered safe.

In the United States, however, a more relaxed limit of up to 3 per cent is applied by the Food and Drug Administration.

'But Hong Kong doesn't have regulations to control the level of hydrogen peroxide or mandate the disclosure of such information on the product label,' said Dr Ng.

Connie Lau Yin-hing, deputy chief executive of the Consumer Council, said two complaints about tooth-whitening products were received between January and July.

Ms Lau said establishing a safety limit in Hong Kong 'could be difficult because there is no agreement on an international level yet'.

Eugene Chan Kin-keung, president of the Hong Kong Dental Association, urged the public to see a dentist before using tooth-whitening products.

'It's good that the public is aware of the matter, but a lot of times it could be just normal stains that can be cleaned,' said Dr Chan.

'We have no objections to the public using those products, but we don't encourage them either. We doubt very much the effectiveness of these products, and the effect is definitely not permanent.'