Help, my teeth are changing colour!
It’s a regular day and you check the mirror after your morning tooth brushing. Taking a second look, you think, Hmm, that’s not what I want.
If it’s the first time you’ve noticed your teeth aren’t a lovely shade of bright white, you might feel disappointed.
While more people enjoy the pearly white celebrity smile found in dental advertising – thanks to teeth whitening – there are many others who notice their teeth are changing colour. A dental condition also referred to as stained teeth or discoloured teeth, teeth changing colour can be caused by a number of factors. For some, teeth that aren’t attractive can be a source of embarrassment or concern. This is understandable, given most of us want to feel confident when we smile.
If this is you, or you’re just curious about why your teeth are changing colour, this blog should clear up some concerns and confusion. Explained in simple language, it covers the factors causing teeth to change colour, as well as what you can do about it.
Ready to smile brighter? Read on.
What are the causes of teeth changing colour?
As with many dental conditions, the reasons for teeth changing colour vary widely.
In this blog, the main focus is on foods and drinks which can cause teeth to stain or become discoloured. Other factors will be addressed in a subsequent blog, but I’ll mention them here briefly:
- General oral care, taking into consideration how often and how well we clean our teeth, including regular visits to your local dentist for a hygiene clean
- Habits, such as smoking
- Ageing, which can lead to wear and thinning of tooth enamel
- Genetics, as our skin colour is not the same nor is the colour of our teeth
- Certain medications, which have been found to darken or stain teeth
- Trauma, for example, from bleeding or if a baby tooth is damaged, the adult tooth may be damaged too, causing the tooth to stain
- Disease, both systemic and local (for example, childhood illness while the teeth are forming or tooth decay)
- Some dental materials, including metallic (silver) fillings or old fillings which are leaking or unpolished
You might also be surprised to learn the foods we eat and what we drink have more of an impact on our teeth than you previously realised. Coloured and acidic food and drinks can have the effect on teeth, which can be likened to ‘opening the pores’ of teeth. The resulting effect is the surface of the tooth ‘roughens’, accentuating the fine ridges. In turn, this process affects the tooth enamel and attracts staining. In essence, things stick to the tooth surface more easily.
Take tea, coffee and red wine. All okay in moderation, these commonly imbibed beverages can have the effect on teeth I’ve just described. If consumed habitually – and let’s face it, most of us have a habit around at least one of these drinks – over time they may have a detrimental effect on teeth, causing them to change colour. In addition to acidity, tea, coffee and red wine also contain tannins and chromogens, which discolour teeth.
Other culprits are white wine, fizzy drinks, and sports drinks. Although we might have some awareness around the high sugar content in the majority of white wine, soft drinks and well-marketed sports drinks, did you know the colours and acidity in these beverages can also dissolve the tooth’s enamel surface and attract more staining? Incredibly, even so-called healthy fruit juice can have this impact.
Coloured foods, such as soy sauce, curries, berries, and many sweets (which are made using colours and favours) can also cause staining to tooth enamel described above.
So does this mean we should eliminate all these foods and drinks from our diet? Well, no, it doesn’t. However, to put a stop to teeth changing colour even more, it’s likely you’ll need to make some adjustments to a few dietary and behavioural habits.
No need to be concerned. A reduction in the volume and frequency might be all that’s required.
How to fix or prevent discoloured or stained teeth
When it comes to addressing discoloured or stained teeth, part of the answer usually lies in adjusting how much, and how often, you have the items that are causing the discolouration.
For example, let’s say you normally drink a couple of cups of tea and coffee daily. Then, at the end of the workday, you down a glass or two of red wine. Even halving your daily consumption of these beverages will help to diminish the impact on your teeth, not to mention your overall health. Reducing the number of days you consume them will help too. Other options to consider are:
- Getting into the habit of consuming your drink more quickly (not necessarily ideal for alcoholic beverages), rather than consuming it over a longer period
- Using a straw, although probably best limited to soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices. In doing so, you reduce the amount of time your teeth are exposed to substances which can stain teeth
- Rinsing with water after consuming any food or drinks which stain teeth is a simple and cost effective solution, although be sure to swish the water around in your mouth before swallowing
- Brushing teeth (and tongue) and flossing 30 to 60 minutes after consuming highly acidic or coloured foods is not always practical, but it is ideal if you’re wanting to reduce the impact on teeth. Brushing any sooner than this window of time will cause tooth wear. By waiting, we give the saliva sufficient time to buffer the acids and ‘harden’ the tooth so the brush doesn’t wear it down
- Chewing gum for 15 to 20 minutes is a good alternative to rinsing and brushing as it stimulates saliva (which acts as a buffer) and helps remove things that ‘stick’ to teeth, causing them to stain. Of course, make sure it is sugar-fee chewing gum
Teeth whitening, which can be sourced through your local dentist, is also an option. More accessible than it’s ever been, you should discuss the suitability of teeth whitening to fix your stained teeth with your dentist. There’s no doubt you’ll have a better understanding of the options if you seek professional advice on bleaching options, which include in-chair, take-home, and intrinsic (internal) treatments.
Still not sure of what to do about discoloured teeth?
The cause, severity and treatment for discoloured or stained teeth is something your local dentist can help with. Rather than try to diagnose yourself, it’s wise to seek the professional opinion about the most ideal treatment options available to you.
What do I do when a patient consults me about stained teeth?
In the majority of cases, I will recommend a professional clean. This is a great place to start because it provides a clean slate from which further remedial action can be taken. Whether the ideal pathway involves changes in habits, teeth whitening, or even more involved treatment, such as internal bleaching or even veneers, making recommendations is done from a position of knowledge.
Each of us deserves to smile with confidence. Addressing issues like stained teeth can help you do that. With the start of the new year only just behind us, don’t wait another day to book a time to chat with your dentist about how you can smile brighter in 2019.
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. 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.