Do you wish your teeth were whiter? Do you avoid smiling because of stained teeth? Do you brush and floss regularly but still have teeth that are a little darker than you’d like? Are you worried that your stained teeth may actually be unhealthy?
In today’s article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about stained teeth and tooth whitening. We’ll answer a few of the questions we hear from our patients at Timberhill Dental and we’ll even clear up some common myths about stained teeth.
Let’s get started.
Are Teeth Naturally White?
This is probably the most common question people have about stained teeth. Many celebrities have dazzling snowy white teeth. But the truth is that the average person’s teeth won’t ever be that white without a lot of work!
When you see a celebrity with incredibly white teeth, remember:
- Movies and magazine covers are digitally edited to make teeth look whiter.
- Celebrities have their teeth whitened professionally, often with powerful bleaching products that might even damage their teeth.
- Porcelain crowns and veneers are popular to get the whitest, brightest smile.
The truth is that without professional help from an experienced cosmetic dentist, the average person’s teeth just aren’t that white.
Factors that can influence the whiteness of your teeth include your:
- Oral health
- Overall health and the medications you take
Depending on these factors (which we’ll talk about more soon), your natural teeth may look slightly stained and not perfectly white.
Are All Teeth Stains The Same?
No– there are actually 2 different types of tooth stains. Each has different causes and whitening options.
First, there are extrinsic tooth stains. These are stains that affect the outer layer of your teeth and are most commonly caused by diet and brushing habits.
Second, there are intrinsic tooth stains. These stains cause changes to the color of the inner layers of your teeth which then show through the outer layers– imagine a bright colored undershirt showing through a white dress shirt. Intrinsic stains are most frequently caused by certain medications and genetic factors.
Why Are My Teeth Stained?
As we talked about earlier, there are several common causes of tooth stains. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Food & Drink
Some of the best wines and coffees in the world are made right here in the Willamette Valley!
Unfortunately red wine and coffee are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to tooth stains. In addition, tea and dark-colored foods (like beets and some berries) can stain the surface of your teeth.
Acidic and sugary foods and drinks (particularly sodas and fruit juices) can make tooth stains even more apparent by damaging the enamel on your tooth’s surface. This allows stains to really set in and become more difficult to remove.
Finally, highly-processed foods with man-made food dyes and colorings can cause tooth stains, too!
Cigarettes & Chewing Tobacco
Do you use cigarettes or chew tobacco? If so, there’s no time like RIGHT NOW to quit.
Beyond the health issues commonly associated with tobacco products, there are a variety of oral and dental health effects, as well. Smoking can contribute to dry mouth, oral cancer, gum disease, bad breath, and tooth stains.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Plaque that builds up due to infrequent brushing or poor brushing techniques can also cause yellow and brown tooth stains. Regular visits to the dentist can help remove these plaque deposits and minimize staining.
Genetics & The Aging Process
Every person is different. Your unique genetics can affect how fast your teeth stain and how prominent those stains appear.
As you get older, the white enamel on your teeth can start to become thinner and more translucent. The yellow dentin inside your teeth may start to show through– giving the illusion of yellow stains on the outside of your teeth.
No amount of brushing will make that go away! And it’s not your fault– genetics influences how quickly enamel wears away and how transparent your teeth appear.
Certain medications, most commonly strong antibiotics used to fight infections can cause yellowing of the teeth, too. If you suspect this is the cause of your tooth stains, make sure to talk to your dentist!
My Teeth Are Stained. Are They Healthy?
Let’s clear up one big myth straight away:
Many people have stained teeth that are perfectly healthy and many people have white teeth that are unhealthy.
Without actually looking at your teeth and evaluating your individual oral health, there’s no easy, straightforward answer to this question.
However, some stains can indicate that there might be some health issues that you should be concerned about. Be on the lookout for:
While rare, teeth with green stains can indicate serious health problems, especially in children. Greenish stains can be caused by exposure to toxic metals like copper and nickel. They may also be caused by some types of bacteria and fungus.
Either way, if you have teeth that are a little green, it’s a good idea to ask your dentist.
Orange stains are most common in young kids who aren’t brushing thoroughly. These stains are caused by bacteria. Your dentist can help your children develop proper brushing techniques and eliminate these stains.
How to Prevent Stained Teeth
Stains that are caused by foods, drinks, and tobacco use can be limited by simply avoiding those products. This is especially true for tobacco. There simply is no healthy way to smoke cigarettes or use chewing tobacco.
Change How You Enjoy Coffee and Tea
Black tea and coffee, when sipped through a straw, are much less likely to stain your teeth. Green tea contains fewer tannins than black tea and is less acidic than black tea.
Soda & Juice Shouldn’t be “Everyday” Drinks
Save sugary drinks for special occasions!
Start thinking of fruit juice and soda as “treats” rather than everyday drinks. They’re so sugary and acidic that they can lead to many health problems, not just stained teeth.
Brush and Rinse Regularly
Rinsing your mouth with water after eating or drinking something that might stain your teeth is a good way to minimize staining. Frequent brushing can help, too, but wait at least 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can actually increase stains in your teeth!
Visit the Dentist Often
Regular trips to the dentist will help keep stain-causing plaque at bay. Thorough cleanings can also remove stains from the areas between your teeth that can’t be removed with a toothbrush.
Learn More About The Teeth Whitening Options at Timberhill Dental
You deserve a smile you love!
Not sure which is right for you? Schedule your complimentary consultation with Dr. Black to learn more.