Teeth are easy to stain — certain foods and drinks, brushing habits (or lack thereof), and environmental factors all contribute to teeth stain. For many people, these stains can negatively affect self-confidence and serve as a source of embarrassment.
But don’t worry if your teeth are stained. With a dentist’s help, you can still achieve pearly white status and smile with full confidence.
Here is what you need to know about the causes of teeth discoloration and what you can do to whiten your teeth. Use the information below as a guide, and consult your dentist, to help you regain your perfect smile and confidence.
The causes of the color change
Your teeth can be stained for various reasons. For example, if you smoke, the smoke you inhale to your mouth can cause your teeth to darken or stain. But what appears to be stain may not always be what it seems — teeth can certainly stain on the surface (extrinsic), but they can also stain from the inside (intrinsic).
Extrinsic discoloration is caused by changes on the surface of your teeth, much like the smoker example we provided earlier. But there are many other ways such discoloration can happen too. Certain types of berries, tomato sauce, sugary sweets, colored candy, and dressings all pack lots of dyes and pigments, while also leading to other problems like plaque buildup, increasing the risk of dental cavities if not properly cleaned and treated. Some drinks also cause staining, most notably, tea, coffee, sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices. All of these drinks contain coloring that can stain your teeth.
Intrinsic discoloration can stem from many different causes. Internal bleeding can cause a tooth to become discolored; antibiotics used by a mother during her pregnancy can cause permanent tooth discoloration in the child; extended fevers can cause stains and marks on permanent teeth that have yet to erupt in children; and some people may also be born with rare conditions that can discolor teeth.
There is one factor that can cause both intrinsic and extrinsic discoloration: aging. As you get older, your teeth start to lose their enamel. This means that they will be more prone to stains externally, and any stains that are already present will begin to become much more apparent.
For example, if you had any tooth trauma earlier on, it may not be evident because of the enamel. However, as you age, the enamel becomes thinner, making the color change. Simultaneously, with thinner enamel, stains become much more likely as they can more easily latch onto your teeth.
Regardless of whether the cause of teeth discoloration is intrinsic or extrinsic, there are ways to whiten your teeth.
Preventing discolored teeth
There are many ways you can get your teeth whitened again, but prevention is still the best solution. So how does one prevent stains from occurring in the first place?
Start by improving your dental hygiene routine—brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Both are essential to keep stains away from your teeth and prevent other problems.
Then try using a straw for drinking liquids, other than milk or water, so that the colored liquid will bypass your teeth. Also, drinking plenty of water and rinsing your mouth after a meal can ensure that potential staining foods and drinks are quickly removed and less likely to affect your teeth color.
Another tip is to chew on sugar-free gum, preferably one containing xylitol. The act of chewing increases the flow and production of saliva in your mouth, neutralizing acids and protecting your teeth, and making sure any stains that may be hanging around are washed away. Eating cheese and drinking milk can have a similar effect, with an added benefit of dairy products providing additional protein, calcium, and phosphorus, all of which can protect your enamel.
You can also eat cocoa-rich food like chocolates. While you may think that this will stain your teeth, the fact is that a small amount of chocolate will not cause issues. Cocoa can protect your teeth and address inflammation, both of which can help improve your teeth and overall oral health. Rinsing with water afterward is still a good practice, though.
Finally, you can eat foods that are rich in vitamins C and D and calcium. All of these bolster your oral health and prevent stain-causing issues.
Addressing discolored teeth
If your teeth have already been stained, rest assured that dental treatments can still restore them. The most obvious approach would be a dental procedure to whiten your teeth, the processes of which can be slightly different from one individual to another.
Other methods, such as opting for dental veneers, can also give you whiter teeth. While these will not whiten your original smile, the veneers can cover any teeth discoloration you might have, making you look like you have perfectly white teeth. Veneers can also cosmetically “fix’ minor teeth misalignments.
Some of these procedures can be expensive. While an investment in your smile and confidence is certainly worthwhile, we recommend that you first improve your lifestyle habits before considering dental procedures. Consult with your family dentist to see what he or she recommends as necessary lifestyle adjustments.
There are many causes of teeth discoloration, all of which can leave teeth looking dark, dull and generally uncared for. Fortunately, there are also plenty of different solutions to help bring them back to white, allowing you to smile confidently again.
With that in mind, try your best to avoid staining your teeth whenever possible. This can mean reducing or avoiding food items like beets, curries, and starchy foods, and brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth right afterward.
However, if your teeth are already stained, don’t worry. Your dentist can discuss your desired results with you and help you make a plan for regaining your beautiful white smile. Once your teeth have been whitened, it will be necessary to maintain them properly by seeing your dentist regularly and brushing and flossing daily. Doing so will ensure your teeth stay white for as long as possible.
Anderson Dental Care is a family dental office in Cincinnati that offers various dental services, from fillings and cleanings to implants and crowns. If you are looking for cosmetic dentistry to whiten your teeth, schedule a visit to our dental clinic right away!