Not to be confused with bleaching (which actually improves the color of teeth beyond their original state) whitening simply removes built up dirt and chemicals from the teeth to restore them to a white appearance that they originally had. During even minor chewing, the enamel covering of your teeth stays in place while millions of microscopic cracks form on the surface.
It is within these cracks that dirt and debris can be trapped - contributing to a dull appearance of the overall tooth. Teeth whitening can remove this dirt from the cracks to restore the teeth to a whiter appearance. Almost any cause of teeth staining can be reversed through the use of teeth whitening.
There are several options for teeth whitening that the dentist can use or recommend to patients. An option with the most immediate effects is performed during a single (sometimes two) visits and last about 15 to 20 minutes. The process uses very strong hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide solutions whiten teeth. Sometimes a lamp is also used to speed the whitening.
The dentist may also prescribe kits that you can take home and use over a period off several weeks of months. These kits are easy to use and are often very effective over a long period of time. Finally, some patients choose kits that can be purchased at any drug or convenience store. However, these kits, although inexpensive, are often only effective on the front most teeth.