Even with regular brushing & flossing and even in patients who maintain excellent oral hygiene one thing common in most of them is that they feel that their teeth are lacking some sparkle or that their teeth are more yellow than what they used to be.
In a survey by IDA, people were asked what they would like to improve most about their smile, and the most common response was whiter teeth.
Many Factors cause a change in colour from white to not so white:
- Medication – Antibiotics like Tetracycline and Doxycycline are known to cause discolouration of teeth if given to children (under 8 years or in pregnant women). Anti-Histamines like Benadryl as well medicines for High Blood Pressure are known to cause yellow discolouration.
- Trauma/ Accident: Any hit in the mouth may cause the tooth to become brownish or even grey because of body’s protective mechanism of laying more dentine to counter the trauma.
- Food/ Drinks: Excessive intake of cola, coffee, tea and even wine causes discolouration.
- Tobacco: Either smoking or chewing causes dark yellow staining (because of tar accumulation).
- Diseases: Chemotherapy is one of the most major factors leading to tooth discolouration.
- Age: As age advances the outer whiter layer of enamel gets worn out revealing the darker dentine underneath.
- External Environmental Factors: Excessive intake of fluoride either from water source or toothpaste can cause permanent discolouration.
Improving oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and doing warn saline gargles does definitely help in preventing discolouration. Cutting down on beverages like tea and coffee and quitting smoking is another sure-shot way to prevent discolouration.
Depending on the factors causing discolouration the treatments vary:
- Whitening Toothpaste: There are commercially available products in the market that have mild polishing and abrasive agents in them.
Please note that these products will only marginally reduce the stains but do not whiten the existing teeth.
- At Home Bleaching: Customized special trays are prepared by the Dentist by taking impression of the patients jaws and peroxide containing gel are given to the patient. The patient needs to put the gel inside the special tray and wear the tray overnight or as explained in the Dental office.
- In Office Bleaching/ Chair-Side Whitening: In this method the Dentist first isolates and protects the gum and applies a strong bleach to the teeth, most commonly the bleach contains either hydrogen peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide.
Please remember all the above methods are for mild stains and mostly for extrinsic stains (on the surface).
- Lasers: The latest tool in Teeth Whitening is the use of Lasers. These lasers emit narrow intense beam of light that interacts with tooth enamel and dissipates the stains.
But for severe stains or presence of intrinsic stains (from the inside), the use of prosthodontic tools like crowns, veneers and bridges should be considered.