Dental bleaching, also known as tooth whitening, is a common procedure in general dentistry. According to the FDA, whitening restores natural tooth color and bleaching whitens beyond the natural color. There are many methods available, such as brushing, bleaching strips, bleaching pen, bleaching gel, and laser bleaching. Teeth whitening has become the most requested procedure in cosmetic dentistry today. More than 100 million Americans whiten their teeth one way or another; spending an estimated $15 billion in 2010.
Bleaching methods use carbamide peroxide which reacts with water to form hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide has about a third of the strength of hydrogen peroxide. This means that a 15% solution of carbamide peroxide is the rough equivalent of a 5% solution of hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide oxidizing agent penetrates the porosities in the rod-like crystal structure of enamel and breaks down stain deposits in the dentin. Power bleaching uses light to accelerate the process of bleaching in a dental office. Another bleaching agent is 6-phthalimido peroxy hexanoic acid (PAP).
Tooth bleaching is not a modern invention. Ancient Romans, for example, used urine and goat milk in an attempt to make and keep their teeth whiter.