What is Teeth Whitening and How Does It Work?

21 March, 2022 / words by user

Written by Dr Rhona

Image by @TinaKunakey

Whitening at home vs whitening at the dentist are two totally different. If we understand tooth discolouration we can delve into this further.


What causes staining and discolouration

Teeth can be discoloured for several reasons. There are two sources of discolouration. Intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic comes from outside sources such as tea, coffee, smoking and red wine and this affects the outside surface of the teeth including in-between the teeth. Intrinsic staining is caused by factors that affect the internal colour of the teeth. Factors that can cause this include trauma which affects the enamel and can cause teeth to become dark. Natural ageing of the teeth leaves the enamel thinning and exposes the underlying dentine. Tooth wearing processions such as erosion, attrition or abrasion can also cause enamel loss and exposure to the underlying dentine. Environmental factors such as antibiotics can also cause discolouration. Even tooth decay can cause discolouration. Genetically people can also be born with yellow teeth. It is always important to see a qualified dental professional for the reason of your discolouration so that the correct treatments can be provided. You may need treatments beyond whitening.


Teeth whitening is the process that involves the use of a peroxide-based product to change the colour of the teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist will take moulds of your teeth and have trays manufactured that you will wear at night or in the day with the correct gel placed in each tooth on the tray. There is also a chairside system available.

Enlighten has a chairside and home whitening system. The chair side involves the use of the peroxide-based product for an hour and a half in the chair. The teeth are isolated and treated with anti-sensitive products whilst the dentist administers the gel in 4 x 20-minute cycles. Trays are still made and for the best results, home whitening must be performed too. The home whitening involves the patient placing a small amount of the gel into each tooth. The day enlighten should be done twice a day for an hour for 5 days. The night should be worn when sleeping

For the best results, it is recommended that you avoid foods and drinks that stain food during whitening. So for example red wine, turmeric lattes and beetroots should be avoided.


Does tooth whitening last forever?

Sadly, no. You will need to top up your whitening results every 6 months or more often; topping up does not damage your teeth. However, your lifestyle can also impact how long the results last, for example if you’re a smoker or not.


How to whiten at home

Oral hygiene is key to success. Hardened plaque turns to tartar which can make the teeth more yellow over time. Also seeing the hygienist biannually ensures the teeth can look whiter for longer.


Water Flosser

Shop the water flosser ↗

I recommend the Waterpik Water Flosser which helps remove the stains from between the teeth.

Minimise staining your pearly whites: If you’re going to the effort of whitening your teeth with a dentist, or want to avoid discolouring them in the first place, it is helpful to avoid certain foods and drinks that may stain your teeth. Black coffee, red wine and turmeric are the worst offenders when it comes to staining. Try to avoid these or drink through a straw if possible. At-home water flossers are also useful when you’re trying to prevent staining, as the high-pressure water blasts the teeth and helps to clean them.


If you have deep “intrinsic” staining then you’ll need to see your dentist. The good news is that you can remove the outer “extrinsic” stains that build up on your teeth at home if you use the right products.


Whitening Toothpaste Tabs 62s

Shop Pärla Pro ↗

We designed PÄRLA Pro to eliminate these stains and give you a high gloss whitening effect.


Here’s how it works. Firstly – our signature PÄRLA blend of 4 natural and low abrasion stain removal agents naturally remove the dark colours from teeth and make them look whiter and brighter. Then, HYDROXYAPATITE, the “retinol of oral care”, remineralises and resurfaces the outer layer of your tooth’s enamel, repairing all the damage and little holes on the tooth from general wear and tear. This means that PRO creates a highly-polished, smooth and shiny tooth surface that brilliantly reflects the light, giving you a high gloss smile.

PÄRLA Pro is a world-first in the toothpaste market – designed by dentists to be good for you and the planet! It contains top ingredients to provide high gloss whitening, combat tooth sensitivity and even helps to support a healthy immune system. Led out by superstar ingredient hydroxyapatite- PÄRLA Pro blocks the pores of the enamel, giving the teeth an incredible sparkle and shine. Even if you fancy a glass of red or two it’s naturally whitening, stain removal ingredients will keep you protected.


What should I look for in an at-home teeth whitening kit/product?

Most online kits only contain 1% or less peroxide, which is the legal dose over the counter. 16% carbamide peroxide or 6% hydrogen peroxide can only be administered by a dentist legally in the UK. These doses will give you the best results. There are excellent products that contain hydroxyapatite which forms the building blocks of enamel. This is the key ingredient in PÄRLA PRO, the naturally whitening toothpaste tab that I co-designed and personally recommend. The key here is that it is naturally whitening and does not damage the teeth. The product is more about stain removal.


What should I be wary of when shopping for an at-home teeth whitening kit/product?

– Kits with trays. The trays are never bespoke and can actually be ill-fitting which causes leakage as the gel seeps out.

– Toothpaste that have abrasive particles. The idea is to remove stains but the particles are like sand and can naturally damage the enamel as it strips away the stains. They do help removing stains with the abrasive particles, but it also harms the teeth.


Do over-the-counter products work?

These products are not administered by dentists and the trays provided are not tight-fitting and bespoke to your mouth. So they’re not recommended. The closer the gel sets next to the teeth and incased will affect the effectiveness of the treatment.
The coconut-based and charcoal-based products have limited if no evidence to show that they whiten teeth. They may help dislodge particles and stains but will not whiten the teeth. Moreover, whitening toothpaste may have abrasive particles which can behave like sandpaper and remove some of the enamel when used.

At the end of the day, this is a cosmetic procedure and the best results are seen when a proper professional gives you the right treatment and advice. There are several causes of discolouration so it is best to ensure that you’re assessment and diagnosis is determined before you start treatment. Whitening is one of the most effective and safe procedures when in the right hands.





Beauty, Lifestyle, Fitness, Fashion & All Of Your Interior Needs. Curated by experts, sent to you Bi-weekly.