Teeth that have been stained and are no longer white can be a result of direct and indirect actions. Before we dive into how to get rid of stains, let's discuss where stains and discolouration come from.
Have you ever seen a toothpaste commercial and wondered, "How are their teeth so white?"
Well, you’re not the only one!
As a Dentist Office, we often hear that patients want their teeth to be just like the pearly whites they see on commercials and in print ads. Although there is likely some digital retouching and behind-the-scenes magic going on for these, we still believe that patients can achieve a bright, white smile. But we know that you’re likely NOT starting with a “clean slate” sort to speak. Patients coming into our Guelph Dentist Office, are coming in with stains and discolouration on their teeth that have been building over a long period of time. So what happens to teeth that were once pearly white that are now a shade of off-white or even yellow?
Why Teeth Stain: A Many Layered Answer
Teeth are built up of a few layers. There’s the enamel, which is known as the surface of the tooth. Underneath the enamel, there’s a very solid layer called dentin, which is a protector of the pulp. The pulp is the next layer underneath that is the most soft and has the tissues, vessels and nerve receptors that connect your tooth to the cementum. And the cementum, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the final layer of the tooth that solidly connects the gum line and everything from underneath the enamel, to the mouth.
So the average human tooth isn’t just what you see on the surface—it goes a lot deeper. Which is why stains are a little complicated.
Types of Teeth Stains
There are two types of stains—there are intrinsic stains, and there are extrinsic stains. The ones that are intrinsic happen from within the tooth enamel and can start from the dentin and pulp layers. The others are extrinsic, meaning they happen from the outside the enamel and they get into the surface. Intrinsic stains are usually from no fault of the patients’ own and can be caused from their mother’s antibiotic use during pregnancy or too much exposure to fluoride during childhood.
Extrinsic stains are the stains most patients come in dealing with because they are stains inflicted by a patient’s dietary, lifestyle and dental decisions. As most coffee and tea drinkers will know, the most common source of stains is from these beverages. Coffee has very small coloured pigments that reside in the cracks and ridges of teeth’s enamel. Tea, on the other hand, has tannin—which is a chemical compound found in plants that tea is harvested from—that gives tea drinkers a dark yellowish stain on their teeth. Both coffee and tea can lead to stained enamel, and it is recommended that coffee and tea drinkers pay close attention to their brushing and cleaning habits. Alcoholic beverages, particularly wine, are also known to cause staining. The pigments in wine called chromogens, are like the pigments in coffee and will lodge themselves in the small cracks and ridges in the enamel. There are also tannins in wine, which leads to discolouration.
Smoking and Teeth Stains
And then there’s the big culprit of tooth discoloration amongst other oral health problems—smoking tobacco. Tobacco has nicotine and tar as its main ingredients, both of which, cause teeth to turn yellow and even brown after smoking for years. On top of discolouration of the enamel, tobacco also affects what’s underneath the enamel and the gum line.
Lastly, some every day foods and drinks can also cause teeth to stain due to their pigmentation and acidic values. Things like tomato sauce, hard candies and berries can stain teeth. Although you can try to avoid these foods, it can be difficult to do so.
How To Stop Teeth from Becoming Stained
We urge patients to steer clear of tobacco and nicotine for their oral health and personal health, but we know that giving up that cheeky glass of wine and early morning coffee isn’t likely. So if you know you’re going to be staining your teeth, there are some precautionary and post-consumption tips.
Before Teeth Get Stained
- If you know you’re going to be drinking tea or coffee, have a glass of water with you as well. This way, you can help rinse out some of the build up in the folds of your teeth, reducing the risk of stains
- Use a straw if you are consuming a beverage that will stain your teeth. With a straw, there is less chance for the liquid to settle into the surface of the enamel
After Teeth Are Stained
- If your teeth are stained after consumption of food and drinks, try to keep a toothbrush and toothpaste handy for afterwards. The less time the particles sit on the enamel, the less chance of them staining the enamel
- If your teeth are stained from smoking tobacco, eliminating the use of tobacco altogether will help to reduce further staining
How to Fix Stained Teeth
Now, if your teeth are stained as a result of intrinsic or extrinsic circumstances, there are a few ways to go about fixing the stains. To get started, talk to a dentist or an oral hygienist about your teeth stains and when they started appearing. If staining is directly linked to tobacco use, there may not be a good long-term solution because of the chemicals, however, if it is due to food consumption, beverage consumption or aging, there are more options for long-term results.
Initially, there are ways to get whiter teeth and remove stains that have to do with your oral hygiene routine. Working in additional brushing and flossing throughout the day or switching your toothpaste to a whitening toothpaste can make a difference for some. But for cases when stains are more stubborn, patients can seek professional help to whiten teeth.
Custom Teeth Whitening in Guelph
At our Guelph Dentist Office, we offer our patients Custom Tray Whitening Systems to get their teeth whitened and brightened! Patients can book an appointment with Dr. Wat to discuss Custom Tray Whitening—a safe solution to whitening teeth. These trays are custom designed for the individual patient’s teeth for the best fit and results. When patients are fitted for their trays, they will also be taught how to use the whitening solution in a safe way to achieve the desired results.
Our team will keep track of your teeth whitening results to help you see your progress and to help answer any questions you may have about your teeth. Whitening solutions are not all built the same, which is why over-the-counter ones may not be safe nor effective on your teeth. That’s why we recommend that patients come in to our Guelph Dentist Office to talk about whitening their teeth—we can give our recommendations on safe and effective ways to do so.
Above all, we recommend that patients stick to an oral hygiene routine of brushing twice a day and flossing to keep stains from forming. Because, believe it or not, plaque build up can lead to staining in between teeth. For more information on Custom Tray Whitening Solutions for Teeth Whitening in Guelph, please contact our Guelph Dentist office for assistance.