Causes of Teeth Discolouration And How to Prevent it

We all know that a healthy smile is important to our overall appearance. Thus, having yellow teeth may lead you to feel self-conscious. And maybe you’re wondering why your teeth suddenly turned yellowish or lost their brightness.

The causes of tooth discolouration are as varied as the causes of any other type of dental problem. Some people may have extrinsic causes, such as staining from outside sources like coffee or red wine. Other causes can be intrinsic, which comes from the tooth itself. You can take various steps to remove tooth discolouration, including whitening treatments with over-the-counter products or professional treatments at a dental clinic.

Here, we will be discussing what causes discoloured teeth and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.

Different Types of Staining

When the colour of your teeth changes, it is called tooth discolouration. They don’t appear to be as white or dazzling as they should be. Your teeth may darken, change colour from white to other colours, or have white or black patches. The common colour of teeth stains can be yellow, brown, black or even purple.

There are factors that make your teeth susceptible to discolouring, namely, extrinsic, intrinsic and age-related.

Extrinsic discolouration

Extrinsic stains are unnaturally occurring discolourations on the surface of teeth that accumulate over time. Dark pigments can seep into the teeth from external factors. These include beverages like coffee, tea, and red wine, while tobacco products colour them yellowish-brown. Extrinsic stains include:

  • Dark-pigmented foods and drinks (tea, berries, coffee, wine, foods with dark artificial colouring)
  • Tobacco products that contain nicotine

Intrinsic discolouration

Excessive amounts of fluoride and certain drugs might produce intrinsic discolouration. Because they build up on the inner layer of the teeth, these stains are harder to get rid of than surface stains on the enamel (dentin). Intrinsic stains look greyer than extrinsic stains.

  • Certain medications (doxycycline and tetracycline taken by pregnant mothers)
  • Health-related conditions (calcium deficiency and eating disorders)
  • Genetic factors
  • Excessive fluoride exposure.
  • Old dental restorations (amalgam restorations)
  • Tooth decay or tooth injury.

Age-related Teeth Stains

Tooth enamel naturally deteriorates as people age. When the dentin behind the enamel layer thins, it exposes more of the dentin colour beneath the enamel layer, making your entire set of teeth more susceptible to discolouration. Dentin is a tissue, naturally yellow, that exists beneath the enamel.

Causes of Tooth Discolouration

The colour of your teeth is determined by your lifestyle, eating habits, and dental care practices. Your teeth might discolour for a variety of reasons. Some are caused by time and accidents, such as age or childhood accidents that disrupt our tooth enamel development. It is indeed challenging to maintain healthy-looking teeth, especially if the majority of reasons that can stain your teeth are your favourites.

Foods & Drinks:

  • Berries – Fruits with dark colours, such as blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates, are good for you. However, they can seep into porous tooth surfaces and discolour them.
  • Sauces Delicious dishes include curry, tomato-based pasta or soup, and soy sauce. But dark-colour sauce can leave stains on your teeth. You may opt for a lighter sauce like carbonara or white pasta.
  • Coffee Coffee can discolour your teeth, turning them brown or yellow. They include tannins, which cause the colour to stick to your tooth enamel if you drink them regularly. 
  • Wine When you consume red wine, your teeth become slightly purple. It may take a longer time before the colour turns dark or dingy grey. Yet, due to the acidic and tannin content of red wines and the presence of natural pigments, it will happen eventually.
  • Tea – Like coffee, green and black teas contain tannins that appear to discolour teeth over time, while herbal teas like chamomile and hibiscus can also stain teeth if consumed on a regular basis. 

Age & Antibiotics

The outer layer of enamel on your teeth wears away with age, exposing the yellow dentin. Your tooth dentin also grows with age, reducing the size of the pulp. The tooth’s translucency decreases, making it appear darker or creating a dark spot.

Tetracycline and doxycycline medicines can impair the production of dental enamel in children younger than eight years old. This problem is frequently noticed in children whose teeth are still developing. It can also occur in infants whose mothers used these medications during pregnancy.

The extent to which tetracycline staining occurs is dependent on the dosage, the duration of treatment or exposure, and the degree of tooth mineralisation. Permanent discolouration can take the form of yellow or brown patches that vary in size and location across the teeth.

Other Causes

  • Smoking – Cigarettes and chewing tobacco can also induce yellow teeth. Nicotine discolours or yellows the teeth. This chemical may also contribute to the development of other oral health concerns.
  • Braces – People occasionally get stained teeth after receiving braces. However, this is not always the result of the brackets. Bacteria can accumulate around braces during this period and should be cleaned with flossing in addition to brushing your teeth twice a day.

How Do I Get Rid of Teeth Discolouration?

To determine how to remove a tooth stain, it’s necessary to first determine the type of stain. Paul A. Sagel, a Procter & Gamble Research Fellow, has studied the science of tooth stains extensively. Sagel and colleagues discovered that while some stain particles remain on the tooth enamel, others find their way through the enamel and settle beneath the tooth surface, resulting in dullness and staining.

Proper oral care alone will not always effectively eliminate tooth discolouration. However, there is a great variety of tooth bleaching treatments and procedures available that can leave your teeth whiter than it is today.

Teeth whitening options can be classified into three basic types. They include the following:

In-Chair Teeth Whitening Treatment

Typically, your dentist will use a higher dosage of hydrogen peroxide than at-home whitening kits. In-office treatment is more effective and typically lasts longer than other approaches. They’ll cover your gums with a protective gel or rubber covering before applying a bleaching agent to your teeth.

Take-Home Teeth Whitening Kit

If you want to whiten your teeth at home, your dentist can offer you an at-home kit. Some dentists can personalise trays for you to use at home on your teeth. You’ll fill the tray with gel and wear it on your teeth for up to an hour per day or as directed by your dentist. To see the effects, you may need to wear the trays for a few weeks. Following treatment, your dentist will request that you return to the clinic to monitor your progress.

As a result, this process is ideal for people in need of a quick and effective teeth whitening therapy that does not require a trip to the dentist’s office.

Over-The-Counter Teeth Whitening Products

Whitening toothpaste and whitening strips may be effective at removing surface stains, but they are significantly less effective at eliminating fundamental stains found inside your teeth.

In addition, schedule regular dental cleanings with your dentist. The stains and spots can be reduced, typically with regular examinations and cleaning.

Other over-the-counter teeth whitening products are whitening pens and LED whitening kits.

Ways to Prevent Discolouration

  • Good habits for your teeth 

Dentists advise brushing and flossing at least half an hour after you’ve finished eating or drinking anything coloured. If this isn’t an option, drinking or swishing with water can help eliminate at least some of the food particles that can discolour your teeth.

  • Change some habits

Consult a doctor about a cessation program if you smoke or chew tobacco. It would help if you also avoided meals and beverages that can discolour your teeth. If you find this difficult, keep a toothbrush on hand so you can be active in keeping your teeth free of stains.

  • Establish proper dental hygiene

Dental professionals recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing to keep them free of bacteria, plaque buildup, which may lead to tooth decay and cavities. Toothbrushes also prevent particles from food and drinks from staying on your teeth. You can use mouthwash, but it is not advisable to rinse your mouth with it right after your toothbrush as this eliminates the fluoride from your teeth. Schedule a mouthwash rinse at different times of day.

  • Use a straw for drinking.

When you consume soda, juice, iced coffee, or tea, this can help keep stains away. The liquid will not come close to your teeth’s visible front surfaces.

  • Professional cleaning

Every six months, have your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist. It will keep your mouth in good shape and give you a more attractive smile.

Final Thoughts

There are many causes of tooth discolouration that could impact your smile. Some causes can be removed or treated easily, while others are difficult to remove.

Tooth discolouration is prevalent and can occur for a variety of reasons. Pigmented and acidic foods and beverages and tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco are common causes.

Teeth whitening products or methods may typically eliminate or diminish stains that form on the surface of your teeth. You can have them done by a dental professional or use at-home products with caution.

Intrinsic stains, or discolouration that forms inside your teeth, might be caused by tooth decay, an injury, or medicine. For these types of stains, your dentist can advise you on the best treatment plan. 

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.