Dental stains do not affect your oral health, but they can certainly make you hesitate to smile.
There are many treatments that can brighten your smile, depending on the type of stains affecting your teeth.
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Types of Dental Stains
Stains affecting the enamel (the outermost layer of the tooth) are easiest to treat.
When the dentin (tissue between the enamel and pulp) becomes stained, concealment is usually the best treatment.
Enamel can become worn and dentin becomes yellowed over time. This combination gives teeth a darker color.
Why do some people have stained teeth while others have white smiles?
A Closer Look at What Causes Stains
Many common foods and condiments, including tomato sauce, red and white wine, mustard, berries, tea, coffee, and soda cause stains over time.
Meds and Supplements
Children 8 and younger can develop stains as tetracycline (an antibiotic) bonds to calcium in developing teeth. Ingesting large amounts of fluoride can result in brown dental stains.
When nicotine combines with oxygen, it turns yellow. Over the years, nicotine can stain enamel and the outer layers of dentin.
Some of us are born with darker teeth, while others are born with weak enamel that can stain easily.
Should I just buy an over-the-counter whitener?
"If you choose to use a bleaching product, you should only do so after consultation with a dentist. This is especially important for patients with many fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains." American Dental Association
How to Avoid Dental Stains
Brush after Meals
It is difficult to completely avoid foods that cause stains. Brushing immediately after meals or at least rinsing your mouth with water can curb staining.
Use a Straw
It's not the ideal way to enjoy every beverage, but if you indulge in tea, iced coffee, or cola, a straw can help keep your teeth bright.
Stop Using Nicotine
Quitting nicotine use of any kind is advisable for many reasons, but it can also help you avoid dental stains.
How do I know which type of stain is affecting my teeth?
Two Key Assessments
The Appearance of Your Teeth
Dentists can often identify stain types just by looking at the tooth. Extrinsic stains are often yellow or yellowish-brown, and cover the tooth. Intrinsic stains are often localized, looking like an isolated patch.
Teeth that have undergone a root canal will often develop intrinsic stains over time. If you were exposed to tetracycline in utero or in early childhood, or if you grew up in an area with heavily fluoridated water, this probably means your stains are intrinsic.
How can I get rid of these dental stains?
Stains Can Be Eliminated or Hidden
If you have extrinsic stains, whitening treatment supervised by a dentist is the best way to achieve a brighter smile. Your doctor may also recommend internal bleaching after a root canal.
If you have intrinsic stains or if you don't qualify for whitening, you can conceal your stains with custom porcelain shells that attach to the front of your teeth.
Bonding is an affordable alternative to veneers. It involves applying resin to a tooth in a way that hides imperfections and looks natural.
If you have severe intrinsic staining resulting from a root canal or another factor, a dental crown may be the best solution.
I want a brighter smile. What should I do?