Causes of Tooth Discoloration
As mentioned above, tooth discoloration can occur naturally, but there are multiple factors that can influence how quickly your teeth become discolored. These reasons can include:
- Staining and/or acidic foods and beverages
- Tobacco use
- Poor dental hygiene
- Stress and wear
One of the biggest influences on tooth discoloration are the foods you eat and drink. Dark-colored foods and beverages such as coffee, black tea, chocolate, berries, and red wine can all contribute to the darkening of your teeth because they will leave pigmented molecules, called chromogens, which can adhere to your teeth.
Smoking is another major cause of tooth discoloration. Cigarette smoke is full of dark-colored chemicals, like tar, and can become trapped in your tooth enamel just like those that are in foods.
It is also important to pay close attention to good oral hygiene. Not brushing and flossing often or well enough to remove plaque and stain-producing substances can also lead to the discoloration, or darkening, of your teeth. After you consume dark or acidic foods and drinks, rinsing with water can greatly help to reduce your exposure to these stain-producing substances. Brushing twice daily is also recommended.
Certain medications and chemicals found in some mouth rinses can get trapped in your tooth enamel as well. Sometimes these substances can even get integrated into the enamel in such a way that it can become increasing difficult to remove, and in some cases you may have to consider alternatives to teeth whitening (see below).
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, while some people naturally have thicker or brighter enamel than others.
Daily 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.
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.
At-home whitening uses custom whitening trays to apply the whitening compound to your teeth and protect your gums. This process 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 one of our cosmetic dentists at Excellence in Dentistry.