Do you find yourself subconsciously covering your mouth when you smile? Everyone loves to show off a bright white smile. So what do you do when you begin to notice discolorations or stains on your teeth? How did they form? Can they be removed? Let’s break down the 6 most common reasons for discoloration on your teeth. In the next few weeks we will address what to do about stains on your teeth, but it’s best to know what type of stain you’re dealing with first.
Types of Stains
Tooth stains can form either internally or externally on your teeth.
- Intrinsic stains are stains that are inside the enamel of a tooth. This can happen as a result of dietary changes or medication, especially in young children as teeth are building their enamel. Additionally, surface stains that are left untreated for a long time can work their way into the enamel of a tooth.
- Extrinsic stains are surface-level stains. Colored particles from food, drink, or drugs get stuck in the sticky biofilm that constantly builds up on the surface of your teeth. This biofilm can be removed with regular dental hygiene, and as you remove it the stains should disappear.
- Age stains are both intrinsic and extrinsic. The dentin that forms the bulk of your tooth becomes yellow as you age. Additionally, the enamel that covers your teeth grows thinner, exposing more and more of the yellow dentin beneath. Additionally, food and drink stains that are not regularly removed can bond to the enamel and become much harder to remove.
Chemicals and drugs in cigars, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco often stick to pores in your teeth and cause staining. On its own, nicotine is colorless, but when it is exposed to oxygen it turns yellow. This staining gets worse with repeated, habitual use. Long-term, nicotine stains become permanent, so it is important to stop smoking as soon as possible and get your nicotine stains treated.
Food and Drink
Wine, coffee, and tea are the most common culprits for staining teeth. The dark pigments in these drinks get lodged between teeth and in the sticky biofilm on teeth, slowly discoloring the teeth over time. However, there are some fruits and vegetables that can cause discoloration. The best prevention of these stains is to maintain proper oral hygiene to remove these pigments as they stick.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is excellent at building up tooth enamel. It’s found in public water systems, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and even in dental offices as a special treatment. However, too much fluoride, especially if it is ingested, can cause white or grey spots or streaks on your teeth. In severe cases, it sometimes causes dark brown or black spots on teeth. This is called fluorosis. Children who are still forming their tooth enamel are particularly affected by fluorosis.
Some medications affect the color of enamel as a side effect. This is particularly true for children under 8 who are still developing their adult teeth. Tetrocycline, an antibiotic, is notorious for causing yellow staining on teeth. However, some other drugs also contribute to tooth stains, even in adults. Blood pressure medications, antipsychotics, some antihistamines, and chemotherapy drugs have tooth staining side effects. Discuss with your doctor any side effects of a medication before you begin, and ask for alternative options if you’re unhappy with side effects.
Trauma or Disease
Diseases or trauma that damage tooth enamel often result in discoloration. Teeth that experience trauma may become darker permanently as a result. Some diseases that can cause discoloration: enamel hypoplasia and celiac disease.
Poor Oral Care
Every moment of every day the bacteria in your mouth grow and multiply. While this may seem gross, it’s actually normal and some bacteria have a beneficial role to play. However, you need to regularly clean your teeth, tongue and gums to remove as much of the harmful bacteria as possible. Bacteria can cause stains on your teeth, as well as cavities and gum disease. Not sure how to care for your teeth properly? Check out the bottom of this blog post for a guide to proper dental hygiene.
After reading this, any idea what may be causing the stains on your teeth? If you’re still unsure, a dentist can help you further. At West One Family Dental we offer professional tooth whitening and consultations. Contact us today if you’d like a professional opinion on the source of your tooth stains! Next week we will dive into what you can do to help whiten your teeth and remove stains.