Teeth can become discolored, yellowed, and stained for a variety of reasons. Either the stain sits just on the surface of your teeth or it can be deeper and cause discoloration of the tooth material. What causes these stains to occur in the first place? There are three ways that teeth can change color:
- Extrinsic discoloration — The enamel becomes stained due to drinks like coffee, tea, wine, and soda. This can also be caused by
- Intrinsic discoloration — This type of discoloration occurs when the inner structure of the tooth, known as dentin, becomes yellow or darkens. This can be caused by use of certain medications, exposure to fluoride, or a mother’s use of tetracycline antibiotics during the early development of a child’s teeth.
- Aging — As we age, the tooth enamel starts to thin and the dentin can become visible, making the yellow coloring more prominent.
How to Avoid Tooth Discoloration
Keeping up with regular checkups and exams is the best way to keep your teeth healthy and white. Your dentist will be able to give you advice on any discoloration concerns you may have, as well as help identify any underlying dental issues that may be causing staining such as decay or an infection of the tooth. Here are ways you can maintain the appearance of your teeth at home:
- Dental hygiene — The best way to keep your teeth as white as possible is to practice good oral health. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day will keep stain-causing foods and beverages from building up on your teeth. If you regularly drink such beverages, try using a straw so that the liquid doesn’t come in contact with your teeth. Otherwise, brush your teeth as soon as you are done drinking or eating.
- Whitening toothpaste — There are many tooth whitening toothpastes on the market today. They can help remove surface stains from the enamel, but they don’t necessarily whiten your teeth. These whitening toothpastes contain a special abrasive that helps polish the teeth. The peroxide and other chemicals in the toothpaste then help break down and dissolve stains.
- Whitening mouthwash — Like toothpaste, whitening mouthwash helps rinse away bacteria so that it doesn’t settle on your teeth. It can also get into the hard-to-reach places in your mouth that your toothbrush can’t reach. Look for active ingredients that work to bleach or remove stains, such as hydrogen peroxide and sodium citrate.
- Teeth whitening — Whitening toothpastes and mouthwash help minimize stains, but they won’t give you the results that an at home kit or a professional teeth whitening treatment provide. Teeth whitening kits have a stronger whitening solution to help lighten stains faster and better. Professional teeth whitening treatments provide the quickest results for a whiter and brighter smile, though. Within one hour you can leave the office with amazing results that would take weeks to achieve with an at-home kit.
For intrinsic stains, teeth whitening will not make much of a difference because it can not reach the inner tooth where the discoloration has taken place. For patients who wish to improve the color of teeth with deeper yellowing, there are other cosmetic dentistry treatments that can help.
- Dental veneers — These thin, wafer-like shells are bonded to the front of the teeth to cover imperfections. Veneers are custom made to fit your tooth and give a natural appearance. No one will even notice you are wearing them. With veneers, though, It’s important to maintain good dental hygiene to prevent staining.
- Dental crowns — A crown covers the tooth to improve the color, shape and overall structure of the tooth. The crown is matched to the color of the rest of your teeth so that it blends in, giving your tooth a natural appearance. If the tooth has become discolored due to an injury, the crown solves both the damage and discoloration issues at once.
Whether your tooth discoloration is just on the surface or deeper in your tooth, there are solutions to help you achieve a whiter, healthier looking smile. Not only will these methods boost your confidence, they ultimately help keep your teeth, gums and mouth in peak condition. Stains and discoloration will only worsen over time if not treated. Any underlying issues causing the discoloration, such as decay or infection, should be addressed to stop further damage and dental problems such as gum disease and tooth loss.
At Reston Serenity Smiles, we provide teeth whitening treatments for patients in Reston, VA and the surrounding area. Please call our office at 571-313-8415 to schedule your appointment today.