Tooth discoloration: what causes it and what you can do to help
Over time, teeth often lose their sparkle, becoming dull and discoloured with use. It can make you feel self-conscious to know that your teeth are stained and not looking their best. There are many reasons for tooth discoloration, but there are also many treatments available. At Guiney Dental, we can help identify the source of your tooth discoloration, and come up with an action plan to tackle it. Our team of professional dentists in Ballincollig, Cork, are experts in all things teeth. Here is our guide to tooth discoloration, its possible causes, and what you can do to help your teeth look their very best.
There’s no better accessory than a set of sparkling white teeth. Life can affect your teeth in many ways, often resulting in staining. Some factors are impossible to control, such as the natural aging process, or accidents that upset the normal development of your teeth enamel. But much staining occurs as part of everyday wear and tear, and can be prevented or limited with care and under the advice of your dentist. It’s important to consult with your dentist to establish the underlying causes of tooth discoloration, and agree on a medically approved course of action. Cosmetic whitening is an option, but many types of stain can be prevented or even reversed if properly assessed and treated.
Types of tooth stain:
- Extrinsic / lifestyle stains:
- Foods – some starchy foods such as potatoes or pasta can cause conditions that lead to staining
- Drinks – coffee, tea, red wine, cola, all contain tannins that can stain your teeth
- Tobacco – smoked or chewed, tobacco can stain your teeth
- Intrinsic / dental health stains:
- Poor dental hygiene – upkeep and maintenance is essential for good dental hygiene. Forgetting to brush, floss, or have regular professional dental cleans can allow plaque to build up and stains to start forming.
- Disease – conditions that affect the development of your dental enamel can lead to teeth looking yellow or stained. If a pregnant mother gets an infection it can affect the development of their child’s tooth enamel in the future.
- Medical treatments – radiation to the head or neck, and chemotherapy can cause discoloration of the teeth.
- Medication – certain drugs can discolour the teeth, especially in developing children. Antibiotics such as tetracycline and doxycycline can affect the formation of tooth enamel in children under the age of 8. Similarly, mouth washes and rinses containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth – which is another reason it is important to get advice from a dental professional when tackling tooth stains. Additionally, antihistamines, antipsychotics, and antihypertensive drugs have all been associated with tooth staining.
- Aging – as we get older, the outer white enamel layer of your teeth gets worn away, exposing the yellower dentin layer. This means teeth often become more yellow with age.
- Genetics – some people simply have whiter teeth than others, due to their genetic make-up gifting them thicker, whiter tooth enamel!
- Environment – exposure to too much fluoride while your teeth were forming (for instance, through high fluoride levels in the water), or through excessive use of fluoride containing substances (for instance, toothpastes), can cause fluorosis, leaving white marks on the teeth.
- Tooth injury – damage to teeth sustained at a young age (younger than 8) can disturb the formation of your tooth enamel, leading to long term problems with tooth appearance. Adults can also suffer discoloration through injury, for instance when an impact decreases blood flow to the tooth, or damages a nerve.
Tooth stains identified by colour
It is important to seek professional advice when identifying the causes of tooth staining, in order to decide on the correct course of treatment. But here is a rough guide to what might be affecting the appearance of your teeth, according to the colour of the stain.
Yellowing is one of the most common tooth stain problems. It can be caused in many ways, but external factors that greatly increase the chance of yellow dental staining include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- High intake of beverages such as tea, coffee, and red wine
- A diet that is high in simple sugars
- Chronic dry mouth
This is another common dental complaint with many causes. They can include:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Drinking tea, coffee, red wine, and cola
- Untreated tooth decay
- Tartar build up
White marks on your teeth can indicate fluorosis or point to a cavity.
Unsightly black stains can be caused by:
- a more advanced cavity
- silver sulfide use in fillings and crowns
- liquid iron supplements
What can you do to tackle tooth stains?
When it comes to tooth discoloration, the good news is there are many treatment options that will have your pearly whites back in shape in no time! Great tooth care begins at home, and there are several ways in which you can begin to restore your teeth today.
At-home whitening tips:
- Maintain excellent oral hygiene. Clean your teeth morning and evening using proper brushing and flossing techniques. Brush for at least two minutes at a time.
- Lifestyle adjustments. If you are a smoker, quitting could have amazing consequences for the appearance of your teeth.
- Avoid foods and drinks that stain. Try swapping for a herbal tea or a white rather than red wine! If that sounds too tough, just make sure you brush after consuming items heavy in tannins and sugars. When brushing isn’t possible, drink water and rinse your mouth out.
- Use a straw – sipping staining liquids this way will mean they don’t come into contact with your front teeth!
Be wary of supposed miracle cures that promise magical at-home whitening results. Most will not work and some could be actually harmful for your teeth. The best course of action is to make an appointment with your dentist who will be able to advise you about appropriate whitening treatments for your specific dental condition. At Guiney Dental our award winning team are ready to help restore your smile. Begin your journey back to sparkling white teeth today with our dentists based in Ballincollig, Cork. Don’t let your teeth get you down – give yourself something to smile about with Guiney Dental!