What is the legal position?

​The Law

  • The Dentists Act 1984 (the Act) sets out the law in relation to the provision of dental treatments and advice in the UK.

  • By law, all dental professionals in the UK must be registered with the GDC in order to work legally and safely.

  • To find out if a dental professional is registered with us you can check our register.

Criminal Offences

  • Section 38 of the Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone who is not registered with us to practise dentistry or to offer or imply they are prepared to practise dentistry. 

  • Section 37 of the Act explains that practising dentistry means providing or offering to provide the treatment, advice or attendance that would usually be given or performed by a dentist.

  • Section 39 of the Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone who is not registered with us to take or use various protected dental titles, such as 'dentist', 'dental nurse', 'dental hygienist' 'dental technician' or to imply that they are a registered dental professional.

  • Sections 40 and 41 of the Act sets out that it is a criminal offence for an individual who is not registered with us to receive payment for dental treatments or advice.

  • Section 43 of the Act sets out that if a company is going to receive payment for dental treatment or advice, the majority of its directors must be registered with us or it will be committing a criminal offence.

  • All of these offences are punishable by an unlimited fine in England and Wales and are heard in the magistrates' courts.

Tooth Whitening

  • The High Court confirmed the GDC position that tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry and can only safely and legally be offered by registered dental professionals in the case of GDC v Jamous [2013] EWHC 1428. This is regardless of the products used and we have answered some frequently asked questions on this topic below.


  • The GDC will consider all allegations of illegal practice that are reported to us and we take these allegations very seriously because of this risk of harm to the public that is posed by it.

  • We have a Prosecution Policy (541.6 KB, PDF)​ which sets out how we will action these concerns or complaints that we receive.

  • We will also publicise the cases that we prosecute to raise awareness in the public in the need to ensure that their dental treatment is conducted safely by registered dental professionals. Details of our previous prosecutions can be found in our press section.

Getting in Touch with Us​

  • If you receive a warning letter from us which sets out that we have received an allegation that you are practising dentistry illegally, please do not ignore it. Do contact us to discuss the matter.

  • If you receive a pack which sets out that you are being prosecuted by the GDC for allegations of illegal practice, please do not ignore it. Do contact us to discuss the matter​ and promptly seek independent legal advice.

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Contact GDC

+44 (0) 20 7167 6000

37 Wimpole Street

London W1G 8DQ


Secure area for dental professionals