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Reasons and Remedies for Tooth Discoloration

Most people consider their smile one of their most important assets. If yours looks dull and dingy, it won’t do wonders for your self-confidence. Keep reading to learn more about why you may have tooth discoloration and what you can do about it.

Why Do My Teeth Look Darker?

Many things can cause teeth discoloration. Most commonly in older adults, darkening is a process of aging. Tooth enamel wears down and the yellower dentin shows through. This can cause our teeth to appear more gray or yellow rather than white. Genetics plays a role in how hard your tooth enamel is, so the darkening can occur at different times for different individuals.

Extrinsic factors, including poor oral hygiene, smoking and smokeless tobacco use and the foods we eat and drink can make teeth look dingy and yellow. Trauma, and certain medications and illnesses can also discolor teeth. Additionally, tooth decay and old metal fillings can also make teeth look grayish.

Can Foods and Drinks Stain Teeth?

As a guideline, foods and beverages that will stain the white shirt you’re wearing will also stain your teeth. It’s not that you have to avoid these foods and beverages completely, rather, do so with caution and make sure to practice a strong dental hygiene routine every day to avoid unsightly stains. Some foods and drinks that cause tooth stains include:

  • Tea and coffee
  • Red wine
  • Colas and dark sports drinks
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Curries
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries

Are There Foods That Fight Teeth Staining?

Some foods can actually combat teeth staining, including:
Vegetables high in fiber, like broccoli and carrots, help scrub stains away.
Crunchy fruits, including pears and apples, also naturally scrub teeth.
Cheese helps stabilize tooth enamel by neutralizing acids in your mouth.
Strawberries contain malic acid in them that can dissolve superficial stains.
Pineapple contains an enzyme that fights stains called bromelain.

Is Smoking to Blame for Your Stained Teeth?

Using tobacco products will stain and discolor your teeth. This includes cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. It’s probably not a surprise the tobacco causes staining, so it might be a good idea to think about quitting if you are sick and tired of unsightly stains from smoking.

Why Does Tobacco Stain Teeth?

Just like skin, your teeth has pores. The tar and nicotine easily get in the pores and turns yellow when it is exposed to air. When smokers have darker stains between teeth, it usually means they have tartar buildup. Tartar easily absorbs more stains than tooth enamel. When the nicotine staining is concentrated at the gumline, a person can have receding gums from gum disease. The exposed roots also absorb more nicotine as they are softer.

Can a Smoker Do Anything to Minimize the Damage?

To minimize the damage from tobacco use:

  • Cut down on tobacco use or quit completely.
  • Have a professional dental teeth cleaning twice a year to remove the stains caused by smoking and have your teeth examined for cavities and decay.
  • Talk to your dentist about DIY home whitening treatments that may lessen the damage slightly.

How Can Tobacco Users Get Whiter Teeth?

If quitting is not an option, long-term smokers with severely discolored teeth will find a professional, in-office teeth whitening treatment from their dentist is the only option for restoring their smile. It may take several sessions to produce the desired results, depending on the extent of the staining. Many dentists will create a custom whitening tray and solution for you to use at home for two weeks if you prefer. These kits are far stronger than the teeth whitening trays you can buy over-the-counter.

How Can I Prevent Tooth Discoloration?

Prevention is always the best treatment option. You can:

  • Practice good dental hygiene. It will keep the plaque on your teeth to a minimum, preventing acids, debris, sugars and starches from latching to teeth and causing staining. It will also help prevent tartar buildup.
  • Tartar is the hard, unattractive yellowish substance that accumulates at the gumline and between teeth.
  • See a dentist every six months for a professional exam and professional dental cleaning.
  • Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that stain teeth. If you do consume them, rinse with water or brush your teeth afterward.
  • If you use tobacco, quit. Ask your dentist or doctor for more resources if you need help quitting.

What Are My Teeth Whitening Options?

Typical whitening options include:

  • Whitening toothpastes – These are the least effective option. You can expect your teeth to get one shade lighter, so they are only appropriate if you have minor staining. In contrast, professional teeth bleaching can make your teeth up to eight shades lighter.
  • OTC whitening gels and strips – These products are more effective than whitening toothpastes, but you have to use them as directed as they can cause tooth sensitivity.
  • Whitening mouth rinses – These mouthwashes only stay on teeth for one minute at a time, so they may not produce the desired results.
  • Tray-based whitening systems – These are either purchased OTC or provided by a dentist. You wear them for about an hour a night for several weeks. Trays provided by a dentist are custom made, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all trays you can buy OTC. These are safer as the bleaching agent won’t get on your gums. Dentists can offer stronger bleaching solutions too.
  • In-office teeth bleaching with a professional dentist – This is by far the most effective and fastest solution.
  • Bonding, veneers or crowns that hide the discolored tooth – Only available from a dental professional.

Talk to your dentist about your options. It’s better to start any treatment after a professional cleaning and an exam to look for decay or other issues. If you’re pregnant, have crowns, a bridge or veneers, or just one tooth that is discolored, your dentist is the best person to advise you on a safe treatment that will help you achieve the whiteness you desire.

Brighter, whiter teeth can be yours. Call us today to schedule a consultation and receive recommendations.

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