Tooth discolouration is relatively common and, while it can signal some deeper issues, it is often only a cosmetic concern that dentists can treat quite easily.

What is Tooth Discolouration?

Your teeth are comprised of enamel, a protective white exterior, and dentin, the slightly yellowish interior. Discolouration is a change in the colour or luminosity of your teeth and enamel. They may start to lose their shine, darken, turn to a yellow or brown colour, or develop white or dark spots.

a female doctor breaking a cigarette

Causes of Tooth Discolouration

There are several reasons why your teeth may change colour-

1. Extrinsic Discolouration

Extrinsic discolouration results from an external factor changing the shade of the teeth. Common culprits for this include:

  • Drinks, like coffee, tea, cola and red wine
  • Food, particularly those with strong colours, acidity levels or high starch content
  • Tobacco, either smoked or chewed
  • Poor dental hygiene habits
  • Specific medications
  • Trauma

2. Intrinsic Discolouration

If the colour change is triggered by something occurring inside the tooth or body, it is considered intrinsic. Examples include:

  • Diseases that affect tooth enamel and dentin
  • Disease treatment, like head and neck radiation and chemotherapy
  • Excessive amounts of fluoride
  • A cavity or untreated dental health issue

3. Age-related Discolouration

Naturally, as we age, the enamel on our teeth slowly begins to wear and reveal the natural yellowish colour of the dentin underneath.

Treatment for Stained Teeth

Once you have discerned the root cause of the discolouration, you can begin discussing treatment options. In most instances, these options include:

  • Professional whitening performed in the clinic by a qualified dentist or oral health therapist. This treatment works quickly and generally lasts longer than other chemical whitening products.
  • At-home products, like strips, toothpaste, and whitening kits. While they are more affordable, the success rate and safety of these products are not proven.

More invasive and permanent options include dental bonding, dental crowns to protect, cover and restore, and dental veneers to improve the smile’s colour and shape.

If there is an intrinsic issue directly related to the tooth, such as a cavity, it is essential to get this treated before pursuing cosmetic improvements.

Prevention: Maintain those Pearly Whites

They say prevention is the best form of treatment. If you’re worried about stained teeth, consider the following preventative measures:

  • Avoiding foods and drinks that could stain your teeth
  • If you can’t avoid these (that’s okay, we are human after all!), try to swish some water or brush and floss your teeth straight after eating
  • Quit smoking
  • Brush and floss twice a day with a dentist-approved toothpaste
  • Drink with a reusable straw to prevent liquids from staining the front teeth
  • See your dentist every six months for a general check-up and clean

The Importance of Good Oral Health

At the end of the day, nothing will help your smile more than healthy oral hygiene habits. At CHOC, our team will work with you to help achieve your oral health goals. If you’re unhappy with the colour of your teeth, or have any dental concerns, schedule an appointment today.