Iowa Residents: Who Can Legally Whiten Your Teeth?

29 May 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

In the United States, teeth whitening (or bleaching) is now the most popular type of cosmetic dentistry, and American consumers spend more than $1.4 billion per year on over-the-counter treatments. Home kits can get results, but dentists recommend that you visit a professional to get safe, effective whitening treatment. That aside, some consumers remain confused about who they can legally visit for these bleaching treatments because rules seem to vary from one state to another. Learn more about who can legally whiten your teeth in Iowa, and why regulation is good for consumers.

National regulation

Apart from food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates and supervises drugs, biologics, medical devices and cosmetics. Over time, the FDA monitors developments in the medical industry and will look to introduce regulation on new products where there is a potential human health risk.

Bleaching (extracoronal) products generally contain peroxide, which actively whitens your teeth. In the 1990s, the FDA wanted to regulate these products due to the potential health issues patients could suffer. For example, misuse of over-the-counter extracoronal products can damage the teeth and the sensitive oral mucosa in your mouth. On this basis, the FDA wrote to major manufacturers to propose new regulation. Following a legal challenge, the courts overturned the FDA's proposal, and whitening products remain unregulated by the Administration.

As such, regulation of tooth whitening products exists solely at state level. Iowa is one of only a handful of states where regulations protect consumers.

Iowa regulation

In Iowa, state law and dental board rules insist that anybody who practices dentistry must hold a license. In this instance, the definition of dentistry is far-reaching and encompasses professional tooth whitening procedures.

The licensing rules apply if you:

  • Publicly advertise your services as a dentist or you tell consumers you have dentistry skills
  • Carry out any dental procedures that commonly need education, background, experience and expertise
  • Are an employee or independent contractor
  • Make any dental decisions, which could include diagnosis or treatment

Iowa Dental Board rules now also explicitly refer to dentists who practice tooth whitening. The rules include dentists who use chemicals and or a light source to bleach teeth.

Dentists can apply for a permanent or resident license. With a resident license, you can practice dentistry, but you must remain under the supervision of somebody with a permanent license. Similar rules apply to dental assistants, too.

As such, anybody who offers professional teeth whitening services in Iowa must hold a current license. Most organizations and practitioners will display these details on their website and somewhere in their office. Before you pay somebody to whiten your teeth, make sure he or she can show you his or her license.

How regulation protects your dental health

Regulation maintains strict controls over the quality of treatment you can expect to receive. Professional, licensed teeth whitening services offer several advantages and health benefits. These include:

  • More effective results. A dentist understands how teeth whitening products work and will have a better understanding of how these products affect your mouth. As such, you can expect better, whiter results.
  • Speed. Home whitening products generally take a long time. A licensed professional can normally get results for you more quickly, particularly if you need to deal with heavy stains.
  • Tailored to your needs. Your dentist has a complete picture of your dental health. For example, he or she knows if you have sensitive teeth. As such, your dentist can tailor the treatment plan to your personal dental health needs. Home whitening kits can sometimes irritate these sensitive areas of your mouth, so it's better to consult a professional.

Licensed dentists can also stay up-to-date with the latest products and innovations. By investing in a professional qualification, your dentist will commit to ongoing learning and training, and he or she can therefore offer you state-of-the-art treatment options.

Iowa is one of few states where regulation restricts who can offer professional teeth whitening services. This legislation helps consumers get the best possible treatment. For further advice, talk to your dentist or contact the Iowa Dental Board. You can also visit a site like to get in touch with a dentist.