Causes of Tooth Discoloration

As we mentioned, tooth discoloration occurs naturally, but there are many factors that influence how quickly your teeth become discolored. This can include:

  • Staining foods and beverages
  • Acidic drinks and foods
  • Smoking
  • Medication and chemicals
  • Stress and wear
  • Genetics

One of the biggest influences on tooth discoloration is the foods you eat and drink. Dark-colored foods and beverages like coffee, black tea, chocolate, berries, and red wine can all contribute to the darkening of your teeth as staining molecules get trapped in the tooth enamel.

Acidic foods and drinks can also make a big difference for your tooth staining. As the acid attacks your tooth enamel, it creates more space for staining molecules to get trapped in the enamel, speeding discoloration. This means that, for example, you can’t switch red wine for white or cola for clear sodas and expect to make a big difference on your teeth staining. The acid in white wine and clear sodas makes your teeth vulnerable to staining from other causes.

Smoking is a major cause of tooth discoloration. Cigarette smoke is full of dark-colored chemicals like tar, and these can be trapped in your tooth enamel just like those that are in foods.

Some medications and chemicals can get trapped in your tooth enamel, too. Sometimes they can even get integrated into the enamel in such a way that it can be very hard to remove, and we may have to consider alternatives to teeth whitening (see below).

Stress and wear doesn’t necessarily cause teeth whitening, but it can influence it. Stress-related tooth grinding not only damages the surfaces where teeth come together, it can stress the sides of the teeth, too. This can create cracks in the enamel that are vulnerable to staining. When visible, these cracks are known as craze lines.

The natural structure of your teeth also plays an important role in how susceptible it is to staining. If your teeth are more permeable, they are more susceptible to staining.

It’s also important to pay attention to good oral hygiene. When you eat staining or acidic foods or drink staining beverages, rinsing with water can help reduce the exposure of your teeth to stains. Brushing twice daily also helps remove staining compounds from your teeth before they cause too much staining.

Beautiful bride showing off her white smile

How Teeth Whitening Works

Teeth whitening is a chemical process that removes the stains from your enamel. Most teeth whitening chemicals use peroxide to attack the stains embedded in your enamel. This breaks them down and leaves your teeth whiter.

Teeth whitening can be done either in-office or at home. In-office teeth whitening can significantly whiten your teeth quickly. In under an hour, your teeth will be left noticeably whiter. In this procedure, we will paint the whitening compound on your teeth after putting protective coating on your gums to avoid irritation.

At-home whitening uses custom whitening trays to apply the whitening compound to your teeth and protect your gums. This process is slower, and may take several weeks to show noticeable results, but ultimately your teeth will become whiter and can stay white permanently with periodic maintenance.

When Teeth Whitening Doesn’t Work

Teeth whitening is a chemical process that works from the outside in, so it usually works better on tooth stains that have also progressed from the outside in. But sometimes your teeth are discolored for other reasons. Teeth discoloration that will limit the effectiveness of whitening includes:

  • Tooth trauma
  • Defects in the enamel
  • Thinning tooth enamel
  • Metal amalgam fillings
  • Color changes in the dentin (inner layer of the tooth)

To address these causes of teeth whitening, we need to cover the tooth. Usually, this is done with porcelain veneers, but porcelain crowns can also be used for this depending on the location of the tooth and its health.

If you are unhappy with your discolored teeth and want to learn more about teeth whitening in Anchorage, please call (907) 349-0022 or contact us today to make an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Excellence in Dentistry.