Some say that if your eyes are the windows to your soul, your smile is the front door. That’s because every welcome begins with a smile. It opens the front door to a conversation, but it can just as quickly close it. A smile that is discolored is often associated with bad hygiene or bad breath, but that’s not always the case. What else can cause your teeth to become discolored, and what options do you have to keep your pearly whites white?
Causes of Tooth Discoloration
There are three main categories that cause discoloration: extrinsic, intrinsic, and age-related. What distinguishes these categories is the cause of the stain and location. Extrinsic discoloration occurs when the enamel — or outer layer — of the tooth is stained. It causes your teeth to become dull or yellow. This can be caused by:
- Drinking coffee, wine, cola, and other staining beverages
- Eating tomato sauce, soy sauce, berries, beets, and other staining foods
- Poor dental hygiene
Intrinsic discoloration impacts the inner structure — or dentin — of the tooth. It causes your teeth to darken or yellow. The most common causes of intrinsic discoloration include:
- Your mother taking tetracycline antibiotics during her second half of pregnancy
- You taking tetracycline antibiotics before you were eight
- Excessive fluoride use during childhood
- Excessive fluoride use from your environment – including supplements and toothpaste
Age-related discoloration usually includes both extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration. Over time, dentin naturally yellows and the enamel on your teeth thins, but other facts can impact both as well. Other causes of age-related discoloration include:
- Diseases – including radiation and chemotherapy treatments
- Dental materials – including amalgam fillings and restorations
Is tooth discoloration permanent?
In most cases, tooth discoloration can be treated with lifestyle changes, routine dental cleanings, and teeth-whitening products. There are some cases — including the death of a tooth — that are more permanent. But, there are alternatives to these situations.
Treating Tooth Discoloration
If your tooth discoloration is primarily caused by extrinsic factors, then simply changing your lifestyle could prevent further discoloration and reduce how quickly it occurs. Avoid smoking, brush your teeth after consuming food or drink with staining properties, and adopt a hygiene routine that includes brushing, flossing, and the occasional mouth wash. Attending bi-annual checkups can remove the plaque on your teeth that has built up over time and give you a naturally whiter smile.
For an added whitening, your dentist can provide a teeth whitening bleach that transforms your smile in as little as 30-45 minutes. This route may include follow-up visits or take-home whitening trays to do on your own. You can also use over-the-counter whitening products to help whiten your smile at home. But, be aware, while whitening toothpaste can remove minor stains, they won’t change the overall appearance of your teeth.
Some whitening products either conducted by your dentist or bought over the counter can remove stains caused by intrinsic discoloration, but most stains require crowns or veneers. If your stain was caused by internal bleeding, then a root canal followed by a whitening procedure may help. You should talk to your dentist if you have intrinsic discoloration and desire a whiter smile. They will be able to give you all of your treatment options and discuss the cost versus pros of each treatment.
Whitening your teeth for age-related discoloration varies based on the cause of your stain. Each person has their own whitest white dependent on their genetic makeup. So, your genetics may not allow your teeth to safely whiten as white as you’d want them to be. Bi-annual visits to the doctor will assist with cleaning up any stains caused by previous dental solutions and materials — such as amalgam fillings — but diseases or genetics that cause your enamel to be thin could prevent you from bleaching or whitening your teeth. You should talk to your dentist about your options.
Preventing Tooth Discoloration
The simplest way to prevent tooth discoloration is to adopt a hygiene routine that includes brushing and flossing. If you eat or drink anything with staining properties, be sure to brush your teeth afterward. Your hygiene routine should also include bi-annual or annual visits to your dentist to get a professional cleaning. As plaque builds up on your teeth, it can become impossible to remove it with a regular toothbrush.
Other solutions for preventing tooth discoloration include:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding water with high fluoride concentration
- Getting a root canal after nerve or blood vessel damage
- Covering up a chipped tooth with composite fillings
If you need help with your oral health, let us help you.
At North River Dental, we have over 30 years of experience in cosmetic dentistry. If you have stained teeth or aren’t satisfied with the white of your smile, let us help you.