Everyone wants a healthy white smile! Unfortunately, there are many ways in which you can develop darkened or discolored teeth. Throughout our lives, our pearly whites are attacked by different foods, bacteria, and medical treatments. We can avoid and control some of these tooth staining causes; however, many such as age or disturbed tooth enamel development, are unavoidable.
If you are experiencing tooth discoloration and wish your teeth to return to their whitened state, you need to make a whitening plan with a dental professional. With professional advice, you can determine the best lifestyle changes or whitening procedures for your unique situation. Until then, here are the basics of tooth discoloration causes and preventions.
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WHAT CAUSES TOOTH DISCOLORATION?
Tooth discoloration is most often caused by lifestyle factors or matters of dental health. However, they can also darken because of simple aging or an improperly developed tooth enamel. If you are exploring options to whiten teeth for cosmetic purposes, you should contact your dentist to determine the cause of your staining. Each whitening option differs based on whether the discoloration is caused by food consumption or dental health issues.
The most common culprits of tooth discoloration are:
- Coca Cola
- Fruits such as apples or grapes
- Soy sauce
- Tomato sauce
Other lifestyle habits, such as smoking and chewing tobacco, cause tooth staining. But, of course, inadequate brushing or oral health habits are the prime suspects in the case of discolored teeth.
TYPES OF TOOTH STAINING
When your teeth darken, turn from white to a different color, or develop white or dark spots, you are suffering from a type of tooth staining. There are three main types of tooth discoloration based on their causes:
To properly treat tooth discoloration, you first need to ascertain the reason behind your staining.
#1: EXTRINSIC TEETH STAINS
Extrinsic stains are caused by something that comes in contact with your teeth and only affects their surface. Such stains are the result of smoking or certain types of food.
The environment also plays a role in extrinsic teeth stains. For example, excessive fluoride can be found in specific environmental sources, such as naturally high fluoride levels in drinking water. Likewise, excessive use of fluoride in dental rinses, whitening toothpaste, teeth whitening products such as whitening strips, and oral fluoride supplements discolor teeth.
#2: INTRINSIC STAINS
As opposed to extrinsic tooth stains, intrinsic stains are caused by something inside your teeth or body. They can be the result of several diseases affecting tooth enamel (i.e., the hard surface of the teeth) and dentin (i.e., the underlying material under enamel). Tooth color can also be affected by treatments for certain conditions such as head and neck radiation or chemotherapy. Because intrinsic stains come from within the tooth, they are much more resistant to over-the-counter options.
Intrinsic stains are prevalent in children whose enamel did not have the chance to develop properly. For example, when a pregnant mother falls prey to certain infections, their baby’s teeth may be affected by poor enamel development, leading to future discoloration. In addition, certain medications such as the antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline disturb enamel formation in children, discoloring the teeth of those under the age of eight.
#3: AGE-RELATED TEETH STAINS
Finally, age-related stains are simply due to wear and tear over time. As one ages, the outer layer of tooth enamel thins and wears away, revealing the natural color of yellow dentin, which is not quite as visually appealing as white enamel. Extrinsic or intrinsic factors may cause age-related discoloration.
STAINING BY TOOTH COLOR
The color of your teeth helps to point to the cause of the tooth discoloration. The following is a list of colors your teeth may turn for different reasons:
If you have yellow teeth, it is most likely due to the unavoidable process of aging. As time passes, the white enamel surface of your teeth wears down, causing the yellow dentin or core of your teeth to become much more visible. Yellow stains can also occur at a younger age due to smoking or chewing tobacco and eating certain foods.
Tobacco, dark beverages such as tea or coffee, and poor oral hygiene lead to tooth decay, turning teeth to a brown shade. Similar to tooth decay, tartar buildup will also lead to browned teeth.
While fluoride has its usefulness, too much of it, especially in young tooth development, can cause white spots. This condition, known as fluorosis, translates into white spots resulting from excess fluoride contact. Too much fluoride can be found in drinking water or caused by overusing whitening products such as fluoride rinses or whitening toothpaste.
The most unseemly tooth discoloration, blackened teeth, are a result of tooth decay or tooth pulp necrosis. Black teeth can also be caused by chewing betel nuts or an advanced dental cavity. In addition, black lines on your teeth can develop after exposure to minerals such as iron, silver sulfide-containing materials, or manganese found in industrial settings or supplements.
Lastly, your teeth can be discolored to a purple hue. If this occurs, red wine or a similarly concentrated beverage is your culprit. Through its dyeing properties, red wine can stain the enamel of your teeth, making it match its color.
HOW TO REMOVE TEETH STAINS
If you are feeling down about the color of your teeth, fear not! There are several ways to remove stains.
While perusing social media or Google, you will probably come across several “miracle” at-home remedies for tooth whitening. However, here at Loudoun Orthodontics, we strongly warn you against using at-home whitening remedies as they can cause irreversible damage to teeth!
Instead, we urge you to visit professional practitioners whose education and experience can guarantee a safe teeth whitening experience. That being said, your dentists can make custom trays to use on your teeth at home. Then, by adding a whitening gel to the tray and wearing it on your teeth for an hour a day, you can safely whiten your teeth outside Dr. Lee’s office.
Another way to whiten your teeth is through in-office dental treatment. Such treatments are more effective than at-home products because they use a higher hydrogen peroxide concentration for teeth whitening. Treatments performed by your orthodontist will also have longer-lasting effects than any other methods.
At a professional practitioner’s office, such as Loudoun Orthodontics, your teeth stains will be removed by a clinically approved teeth whitening machine called a GLO Teeth Whitening system. GLO provides immediate tooth whitening without any damage through heat and blue LED light. GLO applies whitening without messy trays, runny gels, or strips. After only an hour and a half, the GLO process makes your teeth up to 12 shades lighter without any sensitivity. Depending on your choice of at-home treatment or in-office procedure, you can experience the confidence-boosting benefits of a brighter smile!
Finally, you can use over-the-counter products such as whitening toothpaste and strips to diminish surface stains. However, these products are much less effective on intrinsic stains and may only help diminish extrinsic teeth discoloration.
HOW TO PREVENT TOOTH DISCOLORATION
Luckily, extrinsic tooth discoloration is easily prevented by watching what you eat and drink. If foods and beverages can stain your hands or clothes, they can also stain your pearly whites. That is why brushing or rinsing your mouth after enjoying particularly stain-prone foods is recommended.
You can also prevent staining by limiting your coffee consumption and smoking habits. If you can’t give up certain drinks such as soda, juice, or iced coffee, use a straw to help avoid staining. The straw keeps liquid away from the visible front surfaces of your teeth!
To avoid both extrinsic and intrinsic staining, improve your dental hygiene by brushing and flossing daily. Each of these procedures can help fight plaque. Plaque is a hard material that forms on your teeth and makes them sticky, giving stains something to grip tightly. Additionally, visit a dental hygienist every six months for a professional cleaning.
If you avoid excessive consumption of certain foods and maintain good oral health habits, your mouth will remain clean, and your smile will shine bright!
LOUDOUN ORTHODONTICS CAN HELP TREAT YOUR DISCOLORED TEETH!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you are ready to learn more about tooth discoloration and how they can help you achieve your best smile. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of in-office tooth whitening compared to at-home options or simply have questions about the whitening process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our Contact Us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a free consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Purcellville, Broadlands, or Brambleton, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in VA, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health as well as follow us on social media to become a part of our smiling community!
- “Tooth Discoloration: In-Office & at-Home Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10958-tooth-discoloration. Accessed 12 Sep. 2022.
- “Yellow Teeth and Other Discoloration: Causes and Treatments.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tooth-discoloration. Accessed 12 Sep. 2022.