One of the most noticeable qualities in a person is their smile. Universally, a bright smile is considered a welcoming quality that puts people at ease. Discoloured teeth ruin a good smile and turn it from a welcoming quality and into something that is borderline creepy. Discoloured teeth are also associated with poor dental hygiene.
So what causes discoloured teeth?
Teeth can become discoloured either by stains on the surface or because of changes that can occur inside the tooth. There are three main types of teeth discolouration, namely;
Extrinsic: This is when the outer layer of the tooth becomes discoloured as a result of lifestyle and diet choices including coffee, wine and soft drinks such as cola. Other lifestyle choices such as smoking and chewing of tobacco can also result in stained teeth.
Intrinsic: This is the most common type of teeth discolouration and is caused by the darkening of the inner structure of the tooth (called dentin) which acquires a yellow tint. This can be caused by different things including:
- Exposure to fluoride during early childhood. This happens mainly by ingesting water that is heavy in fluoride.
- Pre-natal exposure to tetracycline-based anti-biotics during the second half of pregnancy.
- Trauma that befell the tooth especially due to a fall when you were a child, while the tooth was still developing.
- Getting prescribed tetracycline-based anti-biotics when you were eight years or younger.
- If you were born with a rare dental condition called dentinogenesis, which causes greying of the teeth.
Caused by aging: This is as a result of a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. To be honest, dentin naturally yellows over time and the enamel that covers the dentin thins and allows the dentin to show through.
What do you do about it?
Most of the discolouration that is caused by extrinsic factors can be taken care of using proper home care and some professional cleaning. Proper home care includes brushing, flossing and rinsing after meals. Professional cleanings to remove discolouration will include applying a bleaching agent to the tooth and a certain technique called power bleaching. In power bleaching, the dentist applies a light-activated bleaching gel which causes the teeth to get significantly whiter within 30 to 45 minutes after the treatment. This also includes follow-up sessions, or a take-home bleaching package.
Dentists provide bleaching gels and a mouth guard that you can wear in your sleep. The difference between the dentist version of the treatment and the home kit version is that the home versions are not as strong and typically take longer to work. They usually take between 2 and 4 weeks to become effective. Some of the whitening treatments can be acquired over the counter at your local chemist, although they usually fit less securely and work at a slower rate.
So when should you get your discoloured tooth fixed?
Ideally, the right time to get your tooth fixed would depend on the type of discolouration you are dealing with. A majority of dentists, however, recommend that you attend to the discolouration as soon as you can, provided you are above eight years of age and have lost all your milk teeth.
You should know however that there are certain circumstances where teeth whitening kits will not work, and proper dental work may be required. This includes when the teeth are darkened as a result of root canals or as a tetracycline stain. The intervention will be in the form of colour matched composite bonding material. Another option is for the dentist to install veneers, which are ceramic shells that cover the outer surfaces of the tooth.
Although tooth discolouration is mainly a cosmetic problem and is mostly corrected to avoid esteem issues, it is advisable to seek professional dental services before attempting to remedy the situation at home.