Discolored teeth can have a serious effect on one’s self-esteem. Teeth are some of the first aspects people notice on a face, and those with teeth that are less appealing are not able to socialize as easily. Many people yearn to fit in with the esthetically-driven society, but having dull or stained teeth makes this more difficult. Fortunately, there are many options to handle discoloration of all types. The first step in treating discoloration is identifying the factors causing it. Once the causes have been determined, methods to improve appearance may be as simple as take-home kits to covering or replacing teeth.
Discoloration of the teeth can come in many forms. Some people experience spotting, and others have the entire tooth darken in shade. It is common for many people to see yellowing of the teeth as they age, but some people experience buildup that may be orange in color. Others have discoloration that is so severe their teeth take on a brown appearance. Extrinsic discoloration is that on the outer layers of the teeth, and intrinsic discoloration involves the inner structure of the tooth. External discoloration usually creates tinting and streaks, while internal discoloration usually creates a grey appearance.
Causes of Tooth Discoloration
There are many causes for tooth discoloration. One of the most common is food, and consuming colorful foods and beverages frequently can lead to long-term staining. Foods that stain easily include dark substances such as coffee, red wine and blueberries. Improper cleaning of the teeth after eating can eventually lead to buildup of tartar and plaque and cause staining. Certain medications can lead to tooth staining, and the most common is tetracycline antibiotics. Less common medications that may cause tooth discoloration include some antidepressants, high blood pressure medication and antihistamines. Decay in the structure of the tooth can cause it to change appearance giving the illusion of altered color on the outside.
Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco can also lead to excessive dental staining, and these habits often result in browning of the teeth. Some infections and diseases can affect the dentin within and enamel on the surface of teeth. Medical treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can have negative effects on the color of the teeth, and excess fluoride exposure from water and oral products can as well. Trauma and injury can cause chips and cracks or damage the nerves of teeth, and aging causes the outer layer to wear over time. As the enamel ages, the internal dentin with its yellowish color is exposed, and tooth stains build up enough to slowly darken the teeth. For some people, their genetic background can affect the coloring of their teeth. Some people are more inclined to have naturally lighter and thicker enamel to avoid the effects of aging.
Various colors can have many different causes. Yellow teeth are a natural result of aging as well as the buildup of plaque and tartar due to poor dental hygiene. Brown teeth are commonly a result of external staining, and they can be caused by tobacco, genetics and decay. Discoloration of the inner structure commonly causes grey teeth. They can also be caused by amalgam fillings, antibiotics and severe decay. Failed dental restorations can cause teeth to take on a number of shades including green and black.
Tooth Discoloration Treatment
There are many options for discolored teeth, and these treatments may vary depending on the cause of the discoloration. Those looking to treat tooth discoloration must begin with a comprehensive oral exam in order to properly tackle the problem. Causes such as gum disease, tooth decay and others may require separate treatment before color problems can be corrected.
The first and most important part of maintaining proper tooth color is good hygiene. This includes brushing and flossing each day, having teeth professionally cleaned every six months and using an ultrasonic toothbrush. Brushing and flossing daily removes surface tartar and food debris from the teeth, and professional cleanings provide more intense removal of debris and bacteria. Ultrasonic toothbrushes clean better than standard forms to remove surface stains.
Another option to assist with stained teeth is restorative work in the form of crowns, bonding and veneers. It may be best to cover the affected teeth with porcelain or composite bonding that matches the teeth in some cases. Veneers may be made of composite resin or porcelain, and they help cover stains on incisors and teeth shown during smiling. Crowns can cover various teeth and can be made from various materials.
The most common form of treatment for stains is teeth whitening, and there are various methods to achieve it. The dentist can perform whitening in-office for the most successful and long-lasting results. Professional teeth whitening can remove internal and external staining, and this can be done with bleaching gel or light technology. The dentist may also recommend a whitening kit to take home to continue treatments if necessary. Home whitening kits are best used for external staining, and they often feature a custom-fit mouth tray used with a lower-strength whitening gel. The at-home kit is worn for longer durations to achieve desired effects.