Discolored teeth are a source of concern for many people. Your teeth can get discolored either by stains on their surface or through chemical changes in the internal material of the teeth. Teeth discoloration is divided into 3 main categories:
1. Extrinsic Discoloration: this is the staining of the teeth’s outer surface (the enamel). Extrinsic discoloration is caused by excessive consumption of drinks such as soda, teas, coffee, wine, smoking and eating certain foods.
2. Intrinsic Discoloration: this type of discoloration involves the inner part of the teeth (dentin) yellowing or darkening. This is brought about by high exposure levels to fluoride, usually through drinking water, especially in early childhood, use of tetracycline antibiotics by the mother during the second trimester of the pregnancy, or the use of tetracycline by children younger than 8 years of age. A drug known as Doxycycline is also known to cause teeth discoloration. Other drugs that can bring about the condition are antihistamines such as Benadryl, drugs used to treat hypertension and antipsychotic drugs. There are several diseases that can lead to this condition. Certain treatments such as neck radiation as well as chemotherapy are known to discolor teeth too.
3. Age-Related Discoloration: teeth generally yellow or get discolored with age due to a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The enamel tends to wear out with time and the darker dentin shows through. Injuries to the teeth such as breakages and chipping can also cause them to get discolored especially if the pulp is affected.
Treatment of Discolored Teeth
Some types of teeth discolorations are removable through professional cleaning. However, the majority of teeth stains can only be removed by using a bleaching agent. The bleaching agent is normally applied on the enamel surface of the teeth. Dentists often use a technique known as ‘‘power bleaching’’ which involves the application of a light-activated gel that causes the teeth to whiten up considerably by several shades, in as little as 45 minutes.
You can perform teeth bleaching at home using a mouth guard and bleaching agent. These types of gels are not as powerful as the ones by dentists at the clinic, so the bleaching process takes much longer, anywhere between 2-4 weeks. Whitening toothpastes can also be used for minor stains, but they are generally ineffective against most stains.
In a few cases, the teeth do not respond well to the bleach, or are badly damaged. In these cases, the dentists might decide to cover up the discolored teeth. To do this, composite bonding material is used. The dentist can also use veneers to do this. Veneers are thin porcelain or ceramic shells.
How to Prevent Tooth Discoloration
There are several measures you should adopt to prevent your teeth from discoloring. Ensure that you brush your teeth after meals to remove some stains before they set. Rinse your mouth using water after consuming coffee, wine, sodas and so on. Visiting a dentist regularly for teeth cleaning also helps to keep your teeth white.
Do You Need to See a Dentist?
Teeth discoloration is considered to be a cosmetic problem. However, although the condition does not pose a serious health threat in most cases, many people feel the need to improve their smile. The procedure of teeth whitening is quite affordable and the results are very satisfying in most cases. Do not hesitate to see your cosmetic dentist if you are unhappy with the color of your teeth.
Dr. James J. McCall is a general and cosmetic dentist in the Jacksonville, Ponte Veda, Florida area. Dr. McCall has extensive expertise in treating cavities, teeth cleaning, teeth whitening and other cosmetic dentistry procedures. Call today for a complimentary appointment with Dr. McCall.