The tradition of tooth whitening dates back to the Middle Ages, when people tried to make their teeth brighter with soda and ash. Today, the materials, devices and methods used are much more modern.
Tooth whitening is always preceded by a thorough cleansing process, which includes plaque removal and polishing. It is recommended to get new tooth fillings into the newly whitened teeth, so that the colours can be made to match. The essence of traditional tooth whitening treatments is that they place an exact-fitting gauge on the teeth, filled with hydrogen-peroxide gel. After this, they place a gum protector on the gingival, to protect it from irritation, and they shine plasma arc light on the whitening gel that's applied on the teeth, making the whitening more effective, the results of which show in 7-14 days from the time of the treatment. The teeth may be more sensitive than usual for a while, but other than this, there are no side-effects.
The world's top, state-of-the-art tooth whitening technology is the BriteSmile treatment, which is very popular in the United States. It is a one-step process, involving a 3x20-minute treatment. The active ingredients of the gel initiate a chemical reaction with the discoloured molecules of the tooth, which lose their colouring effect, so the teeth become white again. The effect is immediate, and produces up to nine shades whiter teeth. The treatment is definitely not cheap, but the teeth remain white for up to five years.
The durability of whitening treatments greatly depend on the lifestyle of the patient. Smoking, drinking red wine, tea and certain foodstuffs that contain colouring materials can affect the colour of the teeth, so it is recommended to repeat the treatment every few years.