Are You Winning the Fight Against Tooth Discoloration?
Restoring and Maintaining a Beautiful, White Smile
The world is full of color, from the iridescent sheen on a June bug’s back to the kaleidoscopic beauty of a sunrise or sunset. It’s everywhere we look—even our food is colorful! Yellow is known as a beautiful, cheery color, but there are a few places we never want to see it, including our teeth. In fact, our teeth are one of the few places we don’t want any color sticking around. But not wanting tooth discoloration does not keep it away.
Many of us do struggle with tooth discoloration leaving us wondering what causes teeth to discolor in the first place and if it can be reversed. The good news is that discoloration usually can be fixed—and even when it can’t, there are still ways to achieve a beautiful, white smile.
Causes of Tooth Discoloration
There are lots of possible contributors to tooth discoloration. Your lifestyle is a huge factor, especially your diet. Dark-colored drinks like tea, coffee, and wine cause stains over time, as do foods like tomato-based sauces, berries, beets, and curry. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid these things entirely—in fact, some of them are great for your overall health! Being aware, however, allows you to protect your teeth. Habits like tobacco and alcohol use also play a huge role in tooth discoloration as any type of tobacco use can quickly lead to dark, heavy staining.
Natural factors can also impact the color of your teeth. Genetics determine the natural brightness or thickness of your enamel, which can influence how resistant you are to developing discolored teeth, but dental injuries can cause a tooth to develop stains or change color. Since vitamins and minerals are essential for building healthy teeth, another possible cause of discoloration is prior vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Certain medications can also discolor teeth, especially when given to children. If you have gray tinting or bands on your teeth, the culprit might be medication. Similarly, while fluoride is essential for building strong, healthy teeth in children and preventing cavities in all ages, children who receive too much fluoride in their diets can develop stains. While there are a lot of ways your teeth can become stained, there are many dental treatments out there that can whiten your teeth and help you regain a beautiful smile. The best method for you depends on the type and severity of your stain, but you’ll always have treatment options to choose from!
Types of Teeth Stains
There are three types of teeth stains—intrinsic, extrinsic, and age-related. Intrinsic stains are located inside your tooth, so they’re harder to remove. Professional whitening treatments can sometimes reduce these stains a little bit, but it’s hard to completely remove them this way because whitening treatments can only go so deep. Stains caused by tetracycline antibiotics, too much fluoride as a child, or damage to a tooth are examples of intrinsic stains. On the other hand, extrinsic stains are located on the surface of your teeth, making them much easier to remove through professional dental cleanings and tooth whitening treatments. Stains caused by plaque buildup, diet, or smoking are all examples of extrinsic stains.
Age-related stains are different from both intrinsic and extrinsic stains. Instead of being caused by a stain that can be removed, age-related staining is when the protective layer of enamel on your teeth wears away over time. Normal enamel wear and tear happens to everyone as a natural part of aging. As your enamel wears away, more of the dentin underneath shows through. Since dentin is naturally yellow, your teeth begin to look more yellow too.
How To Remove Teeth Stains
Minor extrinsic stains can sometimes be removed using over-the-counter whitening strips, and it’s important to follow the directions closely. You should also always ask your dentist about home remedies before you try them. This is because some home remedies can actually cause more damage and staining, especially if they use acidic or abrasive ingredients. If you want more dramatic results or have severe black or brown stains, professional whitening treatments may be your best option. These treatments are incredibly helpful for extrinsic stains and can whiten your teeth multiple shades in a single hour-long treatment!
If you have intrinsic stains or worn, yellowed teeth, don’t worry—you can still regain a beautiful, white smile! If you have a single tooth that has changed color due to injury to or removal of the nerve tissue, such as a root canal tooth, a dental crown is a great option. This porcelain restoration is designed specifically for you, restoring the tooth’s natural color and perfectly blending into your smile. It’s not just for appearances, though, as the dental crown will also protect the tooth from future damage. Dental bonding and porcelain veneers are also both great methods to cover staining on one or all of your teeth.
How To Protect Your Teeth From Discoloration
Thankfully there are ways to proactively prevent tooth discoloration! Many of these methods revolve around your habits. If you smoke or use any type of tobacco, quitting is both better for your health and incredibly effective in preventing future stains. Try using a straw when you’re drinking dark beverages, and take care of your oral health by scheduling professional cleanings every six months and practicing great oral hygiene.
This means brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash daily. You can even incorporate products like whitening toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash into your daily routine to help fight plaque and prevent stain development. If you end up getting professional whitening treatments, a touch-up treatment once a year can also make a big difference in keeping your smile bright and confident!
You’re not the only person who fights against tooth discoloration—most of us do! Thankfully there are plenty of solutions out there to help resolve discolored teeth and prevent future stains, helping you regain and maintain a beautiful, confident smile for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about the stains on your teeth and the best way to remove them, feel free to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Sexton at any time.