Not everyone has the good fortune of being born with, or retaining through their life, a full set of pearly white teeth. However, your habits, diet and lifestyle can all contribute to whether your teeth stay looking their best – or not. Today, we’re going examine the main causes of teeth staining, so keep reading to learn what, and what not to do.
Let’s begin with the external factors affecting tooth discolouration. These factors come from the outside – meaning they are within your control –and often, simply require a change in habits to correct.
- Beverages – cola and other soft drinks, coffee, black tea and wine – can all stain your teeth by virtue of their concentrated colour, high tannin or sugar content and acidity, leaving hard to remove pigmentation on the teeth, wearing down the protective layer of enamel or causing decay.
- Foods – such as tomato sauce, curry pastes and powders, richly coloured or acidic fruits and berries, balsamic and other dark vinegars, popsicles, candies and sweets – can also stain teeth, damage enamel and cause decay.
- Tobacco – whether smoked or chewed – can leave hard to remove stains behind. Cosmetic effects aside, regular tobacco use increases the risk of more serious problems, such as oral cancer, respiratory diseases and more.
- Poor oral hygiene – such as a lack of regular brushing; incorrect brushing technique (moving the brush the wrong direction or applying too much pressure, leading to gum damage and incomplete cleaning); not brushing evenly or for long enough (2 full minutes is recommended by dentists); infrequent or incorrect flossing; using a toothbrush with worn bristles; using a poor-quality toothbrush; ineffective toothpaste; or failing to brush or rinse after eating sugar – are all poor oral hygiene habits which can be easily corrected.
Your dental care professional can help you identify problem areas in your mouth and instruct you on correct brushing and flossing techniques. Today’s advanced electric toothbrushes clean more effectively than ordinary, manual toothbrushes, and can be an effective tool against discolouration.
Dental materials – such as those used in amalgam restorations, like silver sulphide, may cause teeth to appear greyish-black.
Now let’s examine causes from within – ones which may not be corrected quite as easily as the external factors we just discussed – but for which solutions, nonetheless, usually exist.
- Antibiotic treatment – such as tetracycline – can cause the teeth to turn greyish-blue or yellowish-brown. Normally, this type of staining can be resolved with bleaching or laminate veneers. Other types of antibiotics which may change the colour of teeth include doxycycline chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride. Certain antihistamines and antipsychotic medications may also cause discolouration.
- Pulp necrosis – the death of the connective tissue and cells in the center of the tooth, often caused by decay or physical trauma, causes teeth to turn greyish-black. Pulp necrosis is treated by partially or completely removing damaged pulp tissue, cleaning and resealing the area. If discolouration persists, bleaching, veneers or crowns may be used.
- Fluorosis – chronic exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride, through drinking water, fluoride-containing toothpastes, rinses, dental treatments or fluoride tablets – can change how tooth enamel develops, appearing as white patches on the teeth. Such discolouration is usually treated with laminate veneers, crowns or fillings.
There are two primary factors which are not as easily controlled – age, which over time may result in your enamel simply wearing through and revealing the naturally yellow colour of the dentin (the hard, bony tissue which forms the bulk of the tooth) underneath – and genetics – which is to say that some of us are more fortunate than others to have naturally thicker, brighter and whiter enamel.
But not all hope is lost – everyone can give their teeth the best chance possible by developing a few good habits – correct, regular brushing and flossing, using a quality toothbrush, getting dental check-ups, rinsing or brushing after sweet, richly coloured or acidic foods or drinks, avoiding or quitting smoking and opting, if possible, for dental materials and medications which won’t discolour teeth.