What Causes Tooth Stains?

Everyone is susceptible to tooth stains. Some stains are avoidable and others are not. What this means for the average person is that sometimes changes in lifestyle can greatly improve the appearance of your teeth. Before considering a tooth whitening option, the cause of your stains should be examined.

Ages – The older your teeth are, the more susceptible your teeth are to stains. First, teeth naturally darken because of every day wear and tear. In addition, stains from everyday occurrences, such as drinking coffee, tend to accumulate. What this means is that children and teenagers will see the least dramatic results from a tooth whitening treatment. During the twenties, the teeth begin to have a yellow tint to them. As the years pass, the teeth become dull, and discolored despite frequent brushings and the elimination of coffee and smoking.

Natural tooth colors - We are all born with a unique tooth color. Some people are fortunate enough to be born with the whitest of white teeth, with others falling within a spectrum of yellow and gray.

Translucency and thinnesss – While all teeth are translucent to some degree, there is a spectrum of translucency. The more translucent your teeth are, the less pigment they have. Those who lack pigment in their teeth will not have a substantial response to whitening treatments. Those with naturally thick and opaque teeth, by design, are brighter and more responsive to bleaching treatments.

The food you eats – It is no secret that the food you eat affects your teeth. Food and drinks with deep color tend to leave stains behind on your teeth. For example, red wine, colas, tea, coffee, and carrots will stain the teeth. Eating highly acidic foods such as citrus fruits will wear down the enamel over time, making teeth more susceptible to stains.

Smokings – This one is a no brainer. Use tobacco products and your teeth will be yellow. Enough said.

Prescription drugs/ Chemicals – It is a little known fact that too much fluoride causes a condition called fluorosis that discolors teeth. Many antibiotics will also adversely affect the color of the teeth as well. Children who are chronically ill and are treated with high amounts of certain antibiotics and medications will experience a noticeable change in their tooth color.

Bleaching or whitening?

There is a difference between teeth whitening and bleaching the teeth. The FDA restricts using the term bleaching to instances when the teeth are being whitened beyond their natural color. Bleaching applies to most products that contain bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or carbamide peroxide.

Tooth whitening is used when the teeth are restored to their natural color by removing stains and debris from the tooth’s surface. This would technically classify brushing your teeth as whitening. It logically follows then that any product that works like toothpaste is a whitener.

Many times the terms whitening and bleaching are used interchangeably, even when describing products that contain bleach. This is probably because bleaching carries a negative connotation, which causes the consumer to believe that the bleaching process is harsh on the teeth. This is not true however. The color of the teeth begins to change most dramatically with bleaching treatments, but the treatments themselves are safe for teeth.

People start out life with shiny bright smiles. The tooth enamel is designed to act as a protective layer against bacteria, decay, and stains. Over time, the enamel is worn down and it becomes less protective and more transparent. It is this transparency that allows the tooth’s yellow core material (dentin) to be visible. Once the enamel is compromised, microscopic cracks allow debris to accumulate, and stains on the teeth are the result. This is why teeth become dull as the years progress. Tooth whitening removes the stains.

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