There’s nothing quite like a bright, white smile to light up your face. With the whitening products available, it’s easy for your dentist to whiten your teeth. However, you may be able to skip the time and expense of the whitening process by knowing (and avoiding) some of the causes of tooth discoloration.
- Tobacco Use: In addition to a myriad of health risks, using tobacco stains your teeth. Nicotine infiltrates the grooves in your teeth and sticks there, staining them. Nicotine is present both in the smoke you inhale while smoking a cigarette and in chewing tobacco, which has even more prolonged contact with your teeth.
- Food and Drink: Some foods and drinks cause discoloration. Avoid excessive consumption of coffee, tea, wine and cola, which all have substances that discolor teeth. Some foods, such as apples, potatoes, berries and candy or sweets with strong food coloring can also cause staining.
- Poor Hygiene: Inadequate brushing and flossing can cause plaque buildup, which is an unattractive dark yellow color. Plaque also attracts those substances that stain teeth, such as tobacco, certain beverages and foods.
- Medication: While they often can’t be avoided, certain medications can stain teeth by permeating tooth enamel and dentin (the underlying layer beneath enamel). In small children, some antibiotics cause discoloration of baby teeth (ask your doctor if she can recommend an antibiotic that won’t discolor your child’s teeth). Other medication, such as those for chemotherapy can cause tooth discoloration.
- Fluoride: Large amounts of fluoride (from tap water, fluoride treatments and toothpaste) can cause teeth to become discolored.
- Trauma: Injury can cause teeth to become discolored. This is a particular problem for children whose enamel is still forming, but can also affect adults.
- Aging: Here’s one cause of tooth discoloration no one can avoid: getting older. As we age, the outer layer of enamel on our teeth wears away, revealing the yellowish layer underneath.
Ways to Keep Teeth White
- Brush your teeth thoroughly every day. Floss using proper technique.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups every six months so that dental problems can be corrected early. Your hygienist will give you a thoroughcleanings to remove plaque.
- Quit smoking or chewing tobacco. If you don’t currently use tobacco products, don’t start. Avoid coffee and other beverages and foods that stain teeth. If you do eat or drink teeth-staining foods, brush immediately afterwards.
- Wear dental guards while engaging in sports such as hockey, basketball, boxing, wrestling and any other activity that may cause mouth injuries.
- Ask your dentist about the correct amount of fluoride needed to strengthen your teeth without discoloring them.