When the prettiest thing you can wear is your smile, then you want them at their whitest pearliest best. Staining of teeth happens gradually and it is usually overlooked until it reaches an unsightly stage. It is at this point that your confidence takes a beating and you are unsure if you will ever get your best accessory back – your smile.
The answer to your question is: “Yes, you can get it back”. But, firstly, it is important to know the types of stains and what causes them. So they can be easily avoided.
There are two types of stains, the external stains or extrinsic stains and internal or intrinsic stains.
These stains occur on the outer surface or external surface of teeth and are more common than the intrinsic stains. The following are the external agents or the causative factors causing these stains.
- Dental Plaque – Plaque gets stained with chromogenic bacteria and impart an orange yellow color to the areas it adheres to.
- Calculus – Neglected plaque eventually becomes calculus. A hard deposit at the gum line of your teeth. The color of calculus can be grey, yellow, brown or black.
- Tobacco – Smoking as well as chewing tobacco forms a yellow, brown or black stain on the inner surfaces of your teeth. Rest assured Tobacco also causes cancer.
- Betel leaf – Chewing betel leaves and nuts form reddish brown stains on all surfaces of the teeth.
- Drinks – Coffee, Tea, Cola and Soda, certain Sport Drinks, Grape/Cranberry juice, Colored juices and Red Wine can discolor teeth. If you have to drink them use a straw and rinse thoroughly after.
- Foods –Beetroots, Tomatoes, Soy sauce, Tomato Sauce, Blueberries and Chocolates, Turmeric and Food coloring agents stain and discolor your teeth. Eat them for your health and prevent staining by brushing immediately after.
- Medication – Iron Syrups, Colored cough Syrups, prolonged use of Chlorhexidine Mouthwash, certain antipsychotic and high blood pressure drugs can lead to mild staining depending on their usage.
- Metallic Compounds – Environmental exposure to metallic compounds such as iron (black stain), iodine (black), copper (green), nickel (green) and cadmium (yellow-brown) also discolors teeth.
The good news is that all extrinsic stains can be removed with good oral prophylaxis (scaling and polishing) by your dentist. Bleaching can further enhance the color of your teeth and give you your perfect white smile.
These stains do not come off by scaling or cleaning as they are caused from within the teeth. Following are few of the causative factors.
- Age –Teeth become yellower as we grow older. This happens because the enamel fades over time due to everyday wear and tear.
- Dental Caries – Decayed teeth appear black or brown with holes on the surface. The discoloration won’t go in spite of brushing or even scaling at the dentist. The dentist removes the decay with a drill and places a filling to restore aesthetics and health.
- Fluorosis – It appears as opaque white, yellow and brown stains on all surfaces of your teeth that won’t go even on scaling or bleaching. It is caused by excessive exposure to fluoride via drinking water during the developmental years of the tooth. Your dentist can help you restore aesthetics by placing veneers or crowns.
- Pulp Necrosis – It appears as a grey-ish discoloration localized to only the affected tooth. The grey-ish hue is due to the death of the pulp or the core of the tooth leading to accumulation of black decomposed material at the center of the tooth canal. Pulp necrosis can occur due to trauma to the tooth or extensive decay of the tooth. The dentist can restore aesthetics and function of the tooth by performing root canal treatment followed by a crown that matches the other teeth.
- Internal Resorption – This condition appears as a pinkish hue from inside the tooth. This is also caused by dental trauma where the dentine of the tooth is replaced by highly vascular pulp tissue.The dentist can restore aesthetics and function of the tooth by performing root canal treatment followed by a crown that matches the other teeth.
- Amalgam (Silver) Fillings – This appears as a grey-ish hue that spreads around the tooth structure at the edges of the silver amalgam filling. This is because pigment slowly leaches out of the silver amalgam filling. Your dentist can remove old silver fillings ad replace them with tooth colored ones.
- Medication – Exposure to tetracycline and its derivatives during the formative years of the teeth can stain them greenish brown and later yellowish brown. This medication is hence contraindicated during pregnancy. Aesthetics of such teeth can be restored by crowns and veneers.
- Genetic Disorders – Certain genetic disorders can be associated with discolored teeth
- Enamel hypoplasia/hypocalcification – Yellow brown teeth
- Amylogenisis Imperfecta – Yellow brown teeth
- Dentinogenisis Imperfecta – Blue Grey teeth
- Congenital erythropoietic porphyria – Red or brown discolorations
- Hyperbilirubinemia – Yellow green or blue green stains
- Thalassemia and Sickle cell anemia – Blue, Green or Brown tooth discoloration
In such cases Aesthetic rehabilitation in the form of crowns and veneers can be given.
Despite this exhaustive list of causes of stains on teeth, the golden rule of thumb is to seek help from your dentist to determine what could be causing the stains on your teeth. A bi-annual check-up will help detect problems in the initial stages.