Having white teeth is not your birthright. But if you work at it, the privilege could be all yours.
The American Association of Orthodontists found that 90% of patients request tooth whitening. So, your desire to smile brighter, is a very common part of healthy dental care. When teeth don’t stay white, a number of factors are likely at play. So it’s best to separate those factors into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic reasons for discolored teeth
You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, the same goes for your teeth. Food and drinks are common causes of discolored teeth. The biggest culprits are:
- Coffee and tea
- Sports drinks
- Hard candy
- Tomato sauce
A number of those items are good for you, so please don’t cut them from your diet just to brighten your smile. The antioxidants of berries, the vitamin C in tomato sauce and the heart benefits of red wine enjoyed in moderation should not be passed up.
Instead, we recommend switching out those sports drinks with water. Need more of a blood sugar spike? Add some honey and lemon to that H2O. Using a straw is another way to help your tooth enamel dodge the acids and tannins and sugars of stain-causing foods.
Regular brushing after every meal and regular teeth cleanings by a dental hygienist will help keep some stains at bay. If you are not able to brush right away, at least try to rinse your mouth out with water, especially if any of the stain-causing foods listed above were part of the menu.
Finally, consider quitting smoking. In addition to the numerous health benefits, removing nicotine from your life can go a long way in keeping your smile bright. That’s because when nicotine mixes with oxygen, it turns yellow and can stain teeth.
Intrinsic reasons for discolored teeth
If you are “long in the tooth,” you may be noticing some discoloration of your teeth. It’s a natural part of aging. Over time, two things happen to your teeth that cause discoloration: the dentin inside your teeth yellows and the enamel outside your teeth thins. This combination makes it inevitable to get a yellowish and even grey hue on your teeth.
Along life’s path, you’re bound to experience some sort of oral trauma that injured a tooth or teeth. A tooth’s natural reaction to injury is to produce more dentin. This increased amount of the naturally yellowish substance makes teeth appear more yellow.
Another inevitable part of growing up and taking care of one’s health is being exposed to pharmaceuticals. From allergy meds to antipsychotic prescriptions, one side effect of pharmaceuticals is darkening of the teeth. Common antibiotics exposed to children, babies or fetuses can cause a discoloration of teeth that doesn’t manifest until adulthood. Finally, cancer treatment like chemotherapy and radiation can also darken teeth.
What your tooth color may be telling you
First of all, realize that solid bright white is not your teeth’s natural color. Pearly white is a little more authentic. Here’s a quick rundown of what each part of the discoloration rainbow may be telling you.
Slightly yellow, brown or grey
The common extrinsic and/or intrinsic factors mentioned above could be at play. In fact, the discoloration may be so slight, you don’t even notice if it’s getting worse. Next time you are getting your teeth cleaned, ask your dentist to place a porcelain crown or white filling next to your teeth and look in the mirror. How close in color are your teeth and that crown.
White spots are another color to look out for. This can indicate that tooth decay is trying to form. If this is the case for you, a visit to the dentist is strongly recommended.
Bands of yellow-brown or blue-grey
If you see broad bands of yellow-brown or blue-grey discolorations forming on your teeth, you may be having a reaction to an antibiotic. An entire tooth that has this discoloration may also be indicative of a negative reaction. This is more commonly seen in children, but adults are susceptible too.
Chalky white or brown patches or lines
Fluoride helps fight cavities, but it can also cause discoloration if children are exposed to too much of it.
Green or black
Teeth that are discolored to the point of being dark green or even black can be a sign of severe tooth decay. This decay could be due to poor dental hygiene or even the deterioration of prior dental work.
Solutions to discolored teeth
The good news is that getting good hues across your teeth is very doable. There are both at-home and in-office solutions for a range of budgets. In many cases, insurance will even help cover some procedures nowadays. You should talk to your dental insurer and a dentist for a clearer understanding.
At DentaLux, we use the Zoom and Sapphire Teeth whitening systems for our patients seeking brighter smiles. These treatments get your teeth six shades whiter in just one visit. We recommend using Sensodyne toothpaste for up to 72 hours after the procedure since most people experience moderate tooth sensitivity afterward.
Take-home bleaching trays are also offered at DentaLux. The tray is custom molded to your teeth and later filled with bleaching content. Depending on the particular system used, the tray needs to be worn for several minutes to an hour for best results.