Beware of traveling teeth-whiteners

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State warns citizens against unlicensed door-to-door efforts.

By Carol A. Clark

A woman walked into the Los Alamos County Community Development Department recently to find out if she was required to be licensed to open a traveling teeth whitening business.

Her intent was to go door-to-door to homes in Los Alamos and White Rock to administer chemicals into people’s mouths to whiten their teeth.

“I contacted the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and found out that the woman not only needed to be licensed, but she also needed to be a dentist,” said Steve Bruegger, the acting director of the CDD.

Dr. Rick Posada of  Posada Dental Works at 152 Central Park Square has been practicing dentistry for 15 years and his services include teeth whitening.

“The public needs to be very wary of anyone offering teeth whitening services door-to-door,” Posada said. “These are chemicals that can be potentially hazardous.”

State regulators sent out a warning in late May of possible health risks posed by unlicensed teeth whitening operations.

“The unlicensed teeth whitening businesses springing up in New Mexico pose a threat to public health,” according to the licensing department. “Improper application of the whitening agents used can cause teeth hypersensitivity, irritation or burning of the gums and in some cases death of the affected tooth – resulting in the need for root canal therapy or even extraction.”

Other concerns listed by the department include the possible violation of sterilization standards, hazardous waste disposal and other regulations, set by the Department of Health and OSHA, such as barrier techniques and the use of devices, which are only to be used by a dentist or dental hygienist.

In New Mexico, teeth-whitening is classified as a dental procedure that can only be performed by a licensed dentist or licensed dental hygienist under the supervision of a licensed dentist – after the patient has been examined by a licensed dentist, according to the New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care.

The New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care has advised the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department to take appropriate measures to ensure that all teeth whitening services offered to the public are in full compliance with state law and federal regulation. Under state law, any person who attempts to practice dentistry without being a licensed practicioner is guilty of a fourth degree felony. Anyone with information on illegal teeth whitening operations or who wish to file a complaint can contact the New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care at 505-476-4680 or visit www.rld.state.nm.us/dental.