There are several factors that affect the color of teeth.
The color of our teeth is determined by two things, the reflection of light off the enamel and the color of the underlying dentin. Dentin is a hard, dense layer that lies underneath the enamel and is yellowish in color. Our genes along with environmental factors determine the thickness of the enamel and the thickness of the dentin. The thinner the enamel, the more the dentin color will show through and make the teeth appear yellow.
As we get older, the enamel thins, allowing more of the yellow from the dentin to show through. Also, as we age, the tooth dentinal layer gets bigger as the blood supply to the tooth shrinks. This causes the tooth to lose translucency and appear darker.
There are some medications, such as tetracycline antibiotics, that can cause intrinsic discoloration of teeth. Aside from certain antibiotics, there are antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs and antihypertensive medications that can cause teeth discoloration. Certain mouth rinses can also cause superficial staining of the teeth.
Injury to the tooth, such as falling hard on one’s front tooth or sustaining a blow to the mouth, can cause tooth discoloration. If the injury to the tooth is significant enough, it will cause the nerve of the tooth to die, which will result in the tooth turning a dark grey to black color.
Excessive fluoride from natural sources (naturally high fluoride levels in well water) or from excessive use (fluoride supplements and frequent fluoride applications) can cause tooth discoloration.
There are certain foods, usually darker colored foods and those containing tannins, that can cause teeth to become stained. Common culprits that cause tooth staining are: darker beverages like tea, coffee, and red wine, foods like curry, tomato sauce, and smoking. This staining becomes more pronounced when the teeth have a layer of plaque or hardened tartar on them.
Teeth bleaching, also known as whitening, is a process of lightening the teeth and removing discoloration and stains. There are two main types of teeth whitening; in-office whitening and take-home kits. Both options use a peroxide based whitening agent. Generally, the stronger the peroxide percentage and the longer it is kept in contact with the teeth, the whiter the teeth become. However, higher concentration whitening agents should not be kept on teeth for extended periods because they will temporarily dehydrate the teeth and cause sensitivity. Before you choose either one, it is a good idea to speak to a dentist for advice on which option is suitable for your specific teeth and needs. Dr. James is happy to discuss the pros and cons specific to your whitening needs.
Two options are available; in-office and at-home whitening.
In- office teeth whitening uses the highest concentration of peroxide since it is monitored by a dentist and dental professionals. During this process, the dental team will apply a protective covering to your gums to prevent irritation for the whitening agents. Then the whitening gel is applied to teeth. Usually there are 2-4 whitening sessions. During each session. the gel is left to sit for around 15 minutes, then removed. A fresh dose of whitening gel is applied for the next session. In office whitening gels can either be self-activated or active with an LED or laser light source.
Professional at-home whitening kits can achieve the same results as in-office take home kits. However, the gel used is of a lower concentration and will take a bit longer to achieve maximum results. The dental team takes an impression of the patient’s mouth in order to fabricate a custom bleaching tray for the lower teeth and the upper teeth. Once the trays are fabricated, patients are given the gel to apply at home.
Both at-home and in-office have pros and cons. The decision of whether at-home or in-office is best for you, really depends on what your personal goals are. We are happy to personally go over pros and cons on an individual basis.
Whether you choose in-office or at-home-teeth whitening, you need to maintain the results by practicing good at-home-care. Also, take care to avoid tannin-rich beverages like black tea, coffee, and red wine as well as acidic foods.
If you are ready to address teeth discoloration and brighten your smile, make an appointment with Trinity Dental Loft!