Nobody likes to have stained teeth. They dim a smile, both literally and figuratively. There are many different ways that teeth can stain and many different causes. And, once your teeth are stained, there are also multiple ways to deal with the stains so that you can get back to your shining, white smile.
Types of Tooth Stains
Most tooth stains are either intrinsic stains, extrinsic stains, or age-related stains. Intrinsic staining is any staining that is below the surface. Usually, this happens when the staining particles work their way below the tooth surface and embed it in the enamel. Extrinsic staining is staining that sits on the surface of the tooth, and it is usually from pigmented food residue that sits in the protein layer on the surface of the tooth. Regular brushing can often remove much if not all extrinsic staining. Finally, age-related staining is a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic. The dentin under the enamel naturally yellows with age, and as the enamel wears away, it becomes more visible. This is made more noticeable by the extrinsic stains – coffee, tea, tobacco – that build up over time.
Causes of Tooth Staining
Most people associate stained teeth with a lack of dental hygiene, but that’s not always the leading cause. Simply aging can discolor your teeth, since the enamel wears away, revealing the yellow dentin beneath. There are also foods, drinks, and habits that can contribute to tooth staining. The beverages behind staining include coffee, tea, and red wine are some of the most common drink culprits, but dark sodas can also contribute to staining. Some fruits and vegetables can also cause staining if you eat them enough– if you’ve ever cut up fresh beets, you know how badly they stain hands. If you smoke or chew tobacco, this can also discolor your teeth, as can failure to brush thoroughly and often (poor oral care). Finally, trauma or disease may cause tooth discoloration, as can some medications and medical treatments.
Removing Tooth Stains
One of the best cures is partaking in prevention. So even if you have staining already, establishing a good oral care routine can keep the stains from getting worse. This routine includes brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist every six months for a cleaning and check-up. You should also avoid or limit tooth-staining drinks and foods if you can. If you want to remove the staining you already have, there are over-the-counter treatments as well as treatment options available from your dentist. Extrinsic stains usually respond well to whitening toothpaste, while intrinsic stains may require bleaching. Consult your dentist about the types of staining you have and the best way to get rid of them.