The last time you looked at your teeth, you noticed they had an off-white or yellow hue. You think about your lifestyle habits - like your morning coffee and occasional glass of red wine - and you know you need to make some changes to help prevent the staining from getting worse. At the same time, you're also looking to lessen the discoloration that has developed to achieve a whiter, brighter smile. Keep reading to better understand common causes of tooth discoloration and ways you can combat staining.
How Teeth Develop Stains
Your teeth didn't become discolored overnight. Instead, stains have built up during your lifetime, and they become more prominent as you grow older. Cumulative factors include:
- The foods you consume. Coffee, tea, soda, wine, starchy foods and acidic foods all contribute to staining.
- Smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Insufficient dental hygiene, causing plaque and stains to build up.
- Medical treatments, including chemotherapy and taking antihistamines, hypertension medications and antibiotics.
- Growing older. Age gradually wears away enamel, exposing the yellow-tinted dentin underneath.
- Taking in too much fluoride, which can lead to fluorosis, characterized by white spots and other tooth discoloration.
- Physical trauma from childhood into adulthood that influences blood flow, nerve health and subsequently the enamel surrounding each tooth.
- Older fillings, which can cause existing teeth to take on a gray appearance.
Considering these factors, tooth discoloration takes three basic forms:
- External: Also called extrinsic tooth staining, this type pertains to the outside appearance of the teeth. This kind of staining is often attributed to lifestyle habits - from the foods you eat to smoking - and is more responsive to whitening treatments.
- Intrinsic: This staining involves the tooth's lower layers. More prominent stains in these locations can stem from a buildup of lifestyle habits, as well as excessive fluoride exposure, and are slower to respond to whitening treatments.
- Age-related staining: Enamel begins to thin, causing the dentin to become more visible. Weakened enamel is also more vulnerable to lifestyle habits and will show more discoloration.
Whitening Your Teeth from Home
To combat staining, get started with at-home whitening solutions:
- Limit foods and beverages known to stain: This includes coffee, tea, soda, red wine, lemonade, curry, citrus fruits, candies, tomato sauce, berries, beets, balsamic vinegar, energy drinks and soy sauce. Drink any beverages with a straw, so that the liquid passes to the back of your mouth. Get in the habit of drinking water after you drink other beverages or eat to help reduce acid exposure and other stain-causing factors.
- Address your dental hygiene: Make sure you're brushing twice per day, for two minutes each, and flossing daily. However, avoid brushing right after eating or drinking, and opt for an electric toothbrush over a manual one. Also, visit your dentist to get regular teeth cleanings to thoroughly remove plaque deposits.
- Examine your brushing technique: Move in a circular motion without pressing down. Brushing too hard and in a back-and-forth motion can wear away enamel, making it more vulnerable to staining and exposing the dentin below.
- Look for an at-home whitening product: Unlike many whitening strips and trays, the izzo® 4-in-1 Oral Care System includes a Polishing Cup Head and Polishing Paste for removing surface stains gently, without harsh ingredients.
- Look for ways to stimulate saliva production: Consider chewing a xylitol-based gum or drinking more water.
- Avoid DIY methods: Despite what you see on social media, whitening with fruit, activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar or hydrogen peroxide can cause enamel to wear away and may end up accentuating stains.
Along with your habits at home, consider a consultation with a dentist for in-office whitening treatments to help accelerate the results you seek.