My recent blog on tooth discolouration and stained teeth sparked interest among our patients. Based on the feedback, it seems stained or discoloured teeth, or teeth changing colour, is a common problem.
In this blog, which is part two on tooth discolouration, we discuss some of the less common things that will stain or discolour teeth or make teeth darker.
Cleanliness and oral care can affect tooth colour
I realise we’re talking about dental hygiene again, however it’s true that cleanliness and oral care can affect tooth colour.
Plaque can harbour and act as a reservoir for many things which cause tooth discolouration or decay (which in itself can be black). It can increase acidity, opening pores which will allow the things that discolour teeth to penetrate deep and cause calculus to form. It can look white, yellow and even black.
The good news here is that regular brushing and flossing, combined with a regular professional clean (every six months) go a long way towards preventing staining of teeth.
When you look at the images below you’ll see the great improvement in colour we achieved from a professional clean carried out in a single visit.
Lifestyle habits can cause teeth to discolour
There’s already a large volume of information about lifestyle habits which affect tooth colour. Smoking and alcohol consumption, and chewing on certain foods contribute to the staining of teeth.
Dental materials can stain teeth
Surprisingly, some dental materials, particularly silver fillings, can cause tooth discolouration. Tooth staining occurring this way is more common than trauma. It’s good to know this can be remedied too. If you look at the images below, you can see how we’ve replaced a silver filling with a porcelain one to achieve a good result here. The patient’s teeth are now white and free from discolouration. Here we’ve used an indirect restoration (ceramic inlay) to create the ideal outcome for the patient.
Trauma to teeth can cause tooth discolouration
A blow or trauma to teeth is never a good thing and in some cases, it can present in the tooth as discolouration arising from bleeding or other conditions in the ‘pulp’ of the tooth. This is the case not only for adult teeth, but also for baby teeth. Trauma to baby teeth can affect the enamel (the outer coating) development of the adult tooth, especially if the baby tooth is decayed, infected or injured. In all situations where trauma has occurred, it’s vital you see your dentist as soon as possible, so the situation can be remedied. This is just as important for baby teeth as it is for adult teeth, as the health and growth of baby teeth affect development of adult teeth. The before and after images below are a good example of how this can be addressed. The front tooth had received a knock (trauma) and following root canal treatment (which was required to fix the ‘health’ of the tooth), we did some internal bleaching before placing porcelain veneers to cover up the underlying dark colour of the traumatised tooth and match the tooth next to it. We also fixed the shape of the teeth and straightened them up with the veneers.
Medications can contribute to tooth discolouration
While the intention of medications is to assist with managing specific medical conditions, a side effect of some is that they can affect teeth. For example. In some cases, tetracyclines, a type of antibiotic, can cause an internal darkening of teeth, especially developing adult teeth. They may also affect the surface of teeth. It might be a surprise to know that some natural supplements can cause tooth discolouration too, causing teeth to darken. This often appears as surface staining that is visible as bands of brown and grey. If you’re concerned, check with your dentist about the foods you’re eating and whether these could be affecting the colour of your teeth.
Orthodontic treatment and tooth colour
While the purpose of orthodontic treatment is to straighten teeth and correct bite function, there are times when orthodontic treatment can cause tooth discolouration. Technically, this is like trauma to teeth. For example, when there is a difficult tooth or deeply rooted tooth, the pressure from orthodontic treatment can can affect the blood supply to the tooth, causing it to lose vitality and discolour. If you refer to the images below you will see how we were able to address this very issue in a patient. We performed a root canal treatment on the canine tooth and followed this with internal bleaching for an excellent result.
Our genes can affect tooth colour
A little known fact is that genetics can affect tooth colour. I tell my Define Dental patients a general rule of thumb is that naturally the whites of the eyes often closely match the colour of teeth. Another general rule is adult teeth are always darker than baby teeth. That’s why baby teeth are called milk teeth. The colour of teeth are impacted by the amount and types of protein in dentine (things which give it colour) as well as the thickness and composition of the enamel. My advice to patients is to avoid getting too caught up in whether their teeth are as white as the person next to them. Our approach to teeth whitening is to assess your specific circumstances and recommend a treatment pathway that will achieve the outcome you want.
Disease can cause tooth discolouration
People affected by genetic disorders and other health conditions may find their teeth discolour. While this kind to tooth staining is not as common as other forms of teeth staining, it can affect the layers in teeth, tooth surface characteristics and composition. Dental caries (decay) can cause teeth to discolour, as can infections and viruses, particularly those which occur during developmental childhood years. The key here is to maintain your regular dental visits as these provide the opportunity for your dentist to pick up any emerging issues before they become larger, more complex conditions to treat.
Ageing and tooth discolouration
Along with other impacts of ageing, the enamel on teeth becomes thinner. When this occurs, the yellow dentine will show through and teeth will appear darker. Be careful not to use abrasive toothpastes (usually whitening toothpastes and charcoal powders) as these can accelerate the tooth wear and ageing process of the teeth. Well established dental hygiene habits, including regularly brushing and flossing (and six monthly hygiene visits) will help to manage tooth discolouration that occurs with ageing. Patients for whom this is a concern can talk to their dentist about how they can remedy tooth discolouration which occurs as we age. In some cases a combination of treatments may be recommended, but the solution will always be tailored to your goals and needs as was the case for the images below.
What can I do about my teeth getting darker?
In this blog, and in our previous blog, we’ve outlined some of the causes of teeth discolouration. If this is affecting you, I’m sure you’ll want to know about some of the solutions too.
These might include: tooth whitening, which could be external or internal, and for one tooth, a group of teeth or multiple teeth. It could also involve covering discolouration or replacing old fillings with newer tooth coloured materials which will not stain in the way existing ones do. If discolouration has progressed significantly, veneers could be an option.
It really does depend on the individual case, however, I would strongly recommend by starting with a visit to your dentist. As a professional, he or she will be able to discuss the options with you and advise the ideal treatment pathway.
Owned by Dr Les Jabbour, Define Dental is a Benowa dentist. As the Gold Coast’s premier dental practice providing quality dental care to local residents longer than any other, Define Dental has decades of experience of providing exceptional dental care for the local Benowa community and wider Gold Coast region. The team at Define Dental is experienced in helping patients address discoloured or stained teeth, applying different treatments tailored to your specific needs. We work with all patients to assess and activate their oral health journey, and then support them with treatment and ongoing maintenance. Want to know more about how we can help address teeth that are changing colour? Call 5597 2100 to book an appointment.