Yellowing can creep up on you little by little, especially if you love your tea, coffee, soft drinks, or cigarettes. The good news is that you can always whiten your teeth after they’ve yellowed, but the even better news is that you can also prevent them from yellowing in the first place! Knowing the mechanism of how and why teeth yellow and stain is essential before you consider your whitening options.
So, why do your teeth get yellow in the first place?
There are two types of stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. Knowing the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic staining can be the key to properly correcting yellowing, maintaining a bright white smile, and preventing stains.
1. Extrinsic color change:
This is also known as surface staining. You’ll find these discolorations on the enamel, the hard outer surface of the tooth. Coffee, tea, cola, or other dark drinks are the culprits, as well as staining foods such as curries and dark coloured fruits. As these substances build up on our teeth, their staining properties soak into the enamel, creating discoloration.
2. Intrinsic color change:
Think of this type of color change as a natural part of aging. Your lifestyle will either accelerate or slow down this aging process. Clenching or grinding your teeth, having insufficient nutrition, or even medications will cause your teeth to age and thus become yellow. Since this type of color change occurs inside dentin, the living tissue under the enamel, the only way to correct it is with teeth-whitening trays provided by your dentist—or, of course, preventing it altogether.
So what’s the cause of your teeth yellowing?
Is it extrinsic or intrinsic staining? Or is it both? Whitening teeth naturally at home can be excellent for extrinsic colour change (surface staining) but won’t do anything to change the intrinsic colour of the tooth (only professional teeth whitening can change this).