Teeth Staining

Stained TeethIntroduction:

As dentists, one of the most common questions we are asked by our patients is this: What causes stained teeth? We thought we would write this piece to answer the question.

Common Causes of Teeth Staining:

Tobacco is of course one of the worst offenders.

Coffee, tea and fizzy drinks are culprits as well. (look at the inside of a tea cup/mug that hasn’t yet been washed…)

Staining and Tartar Build-upOther possible causes include fruit juices (especially grape), red AND white wine, fruits such as blueberries, vegetables such as beetroot, soya sauce, and curry. Think of it like this: If a food or beverage can leave permanent stains on clothing or carpets, it will probably stain teeth.

Growing Older also contributes to the yellowing of teeth. The enamel (the hard, white outer layer of your teeth) wears thin, allowing the underlying (yellow) dentine to show through. This is why our teeth appear more yellow as we age.

Some stains are what’s called intrinsic i.e. they actually occur on the inside of the tooth. For example, children who take the antibiotic tetracycline (or whose mothers took it while pregnant) often have such stains. Silver (amalgam) fillings as they corrode can often stain surrounding tooth structure.

What to do about stained teeth?

Stained ToothBefore you can safely take action, you have to understand what kind of stains are affecting your teeth; you also need to be realistic, too, in what is achievable. Even the healthiest, most perfectly maintained teeth are not pure white.

Your dentist is the only person who can help correct intrinsic stains, through the use of such cosmetic procedures as composite bonding and veneering with porcelain (which essentially cover the offending coloured area). Stains from food and drink can often be removed with a professional dental cleaning (Scale & Polish). Teeth whitening is also a very powerful option to consider and make a dramatic improvement in the appearance of your teeth.

Once you’ve had the stains removed, follow these simple tips below to keep them from recurring in the future.

Keep your teeth clean. That means daily brushing. An electric toothbrush may be more effective if you don’t do a thorough job manually. But don’t be too enthusiastic; putting too much pressure on your toothbrush or using a hard-bristled brush can cause premature wearing down of the teeth. You want to use a soft-medium bristled brush and soft gentle pressure (enough pressure to blanche your fingernail, or as if you were writing with a soft pencil).

Floss. Ever notice how stained teeth look worse around the sides and edges? That’s because the plaque (a thin, nearly invisible layer of bacteria and food debris) that builds up at the neck of the tooth at the gum line attracts stains like a magnet. Daily flossing will help prevent accumulation of stains on your teeth.

Stop smoking. Easier said than done, but we are all well aware of the “smokers teeth look” so it makes perfect sense that if you stop smoking, you will reduce the build-up of staining on the teeth and tongue.

Red Wine StainingWatch your diet. When indulging in staining beverages (tea, coffee, wine, cola etc.), do so in one or two sittings rather than sipping such drinks throughout the day. And clean your teeth after consuming them.

Use a straw. Sipping fizzy drinks, smoothies and fruit juices through a straw will reduce your teeth’s exposure to these staining beverages.

Use stain-removing toothpastes with caution. So-called ‘smokers’ toothpastes’, designed to scrub away tobacco, coffee, and other stains on the teeth, are generally abrasive and should be avoided at all costs. Please check with your dentist before you are considering trying one of these.

Have your teeth cleaned regularly with your dentist or hygienist.  A scale and polish takes about 20 minutes and does a superb job of helping maintain a happy, healthy mouth.

Don’t get creative. Brushing with baking soda will damage composite resins and porcelain veneers (which are used to make crowns and other types of tooth restorations). Scratches on these materials pick up stains more readily. You also want to avoid using dental picks and applications of chlorine bleach.

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