Let’s start with a spoiler alert. Most of the time, stained teeth are more of a cosmetic issue. However, it can also signify deeper oral issues and may prompt non-dental concerns, such as poor self-esteem.
Learn all about stained teeth – why discolouration happens, when you should do something about it, and if you can turn your pearly whites white again.
Types of Tooth Stains?
Have you noticed a yellow tinge on your teeth? You may rush to have them whitened but understand that there are different kinds of stained teeth. You must know which category you fall under before you seek a solution. There are generally two types of tooth stains:
These stains occur on the surface enamel or the tooth exterior. Enamel is what comes into contact with the things you consume, such as food and drinks. Over time, the effects of your diet can build up on your enamel, creating a stain. Porous teeth and thinning enamel can also increase the likelihood of these stains.
Intrinsic stains happen on the dentin or the layer underneath the enamel. Culprits are typically from excess fluoride consumption, which can create brownish staining or mottling, or tooth decay, which starts greyish or black. Other causes include medication and nerve damage.
Primary Causes of Stained Teeth
No one ever gets stained teeth instantly. It’s usually the culmination of habits and perhaps careless dental hygiene.
You love coffee, tea, or red wine.
Do you love drinking coffee, tea, or red wine – maybe all three of them? One of the most common causes of teeth discolouration is the consumption of certain foods and beverages. Coffee, tea, and red wine can stain teeth due to their high levels of chromogens or the pigments that can stick to tooth enamel. Dark-coloured fruits and vegetables such as blueberries and beets can also cause staining.
Meanwhile, acidic foods and drinks such as citric fruits can cause tooth enamel to wear away, making teeth appear yellow as the underlying dentin becomes more visible.
You practise poor dental hygiene.
It should go without saying, but poor dental hygiene can lead to stained or yellow teeth. Without brushing and flossing regularly, plaque can build up on the surface of the teeth, which appears yellow or discoloured. Over time, plaque can lead to cavities, which show up as dark spots on the teeth.
You’re a regular smoker.
Fancy a cigarette? Smoking and tobacco use are also common causes of yellow teeth. Nicotine and tar from cigarettes can penetrate tooth enamel, causing discolouration that can be difficult to remove. In addition, smoking can also contribute to gum disease and other oral health problems.
But what about vaping? While it may not be the healthiest habit either, the vapours won’t cause your teeth to stain as they do not contain tar.
Your medication or medical condition could be the culprit.
Certain medications can also cause stained or discoloured teeth. Some drugs, like antihistamines, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure medications, can also lead to tooth discolouration. Other medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment, might also affect your teeth.
Meanwhile, some medical conditions also contribute to stained or yellow teeth. Diseases that affect enamel formation, such as amelogenesis imperfecta and dentinogenesis imperfecta, can cause teeth to be discoloured. In addition, certain conditions, such as celiac disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause enamel erosion, leading to yellowing or staining.
How to Whiten Stained Teeth
How to get rid of stained teeth? Follow these strategies:
Practise excellent oral hygiene habits.
The first step is to exercise good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing frequently can help remove plaque and prevent cavities, which can lead to discoloured teeth.
Try expert-recommended treatments.
You can also up your routine with whitening toothpaste or mouthwash to brighten your smile. Or, you could also try at-home whitening treatments. However, make sure to consult a dental professional before try any of these options.
Visit your dentist.
For more serious stains, drop by your dentist. They may scrape off oral biofilm and tartar that contribute to your smile’s yellowish hue. They can also make assessments of your dental condition, such as crookedness or overlaps that make teeth harder to clean, making you more prone to plaque and, consequently, stains and discolouration.
So, apart from performing professional whitening or bleaching treatments that work faster and more effectively than DIY methods, they might also recommend other orthodontic treatments, such as aligners, like ClearCorrect, to help you achieve optimum dental health. You can wear these aligners while whitening your teeth, allowing you to hit two birds with one stone.
Make lifestyle changes.
Try limiting your teeth-staining activities, such as drinking and smoking. You could also drink with a straw to prevent contact with teeth.
Can stained teeth ever be white again? Of course! But first, you need to identify their cause. Follow the tips above, brush your teeth properly, and visit your dentist regularly if you want to enjoy a brilliant white smile.
Watts, A., & Addy, M. (2001). Tooth discolouration and staining: a review of the literature. British Dental Journal, 190(6), 309–316.