Tooth discoloration is a slow and gradual process that can go overlooked for long. While it may leave a significant impact on one’s self-esteem and highlight confidence struggles, fortunately, tooth yellowing is not associated with serious underlying illnesses. While it may not be a very important or urgent health matter, tooth discoloration heavily influences general wellbeing. To attain or maintain a pearly white and bright smile once again, it is important to understand the reasons behind tooth discoloration and more importantly, what measures you can take to avoid exposure to tooth discoloring factors.
- Age and Associated Tooth Wear
As part of a natural physiological phenomenon, with age, teeth start to exhibit discoloration as the top white protective outermost layer of the tooth, known as enamel, begins to wear. The teeth start to turn yellow and sometimes even gray, as the enamel continues to thin out over the passage of time.
If someone is an avid consumer of tobacco products, they are susceptible to staining and darkening of the tooth surfaces. Nicotine in tobacco products alone is responsible for addiction as well as the deposition of yellow or brown stains on tooth surfaces.
- Improper Oral Hygiene
Irregular oral hygiene care leaves teeth more prone to plaque and tartar build-up which not only harms the teeth and gums but also accelerates the discoloration process.
Certain medication has been clinically proven to result in tooth discoloration. Antihistamines, Antihypertensive, antipsychotics, and antibiotics fall under this category. Each of these leaves a distinct stain on the teeth. Antibiotics, especially tetracyclines and doxycyclines, have been proved to induce discoloration in teeth whilst embedded in the gums during their developmental course. If a woman in a second trimester were to consume antibiotics or a child consumes them before the age of 8, he or she is likely to have permanently stained teeth. To correct the aftermath, internal bleaching is recommended.
- Underlying Disease
A lesser known cause of discoloration is a disease of the enamel itself or the aftereffect of treatment for a specific condition, for example, cancer treatment using chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The discoloration in such scenarios usually presents with a brownish hue.
Inheritance has a significant role to play in this scenario as often, the tooth color runs in generations. There are 4 natural shades of teeth: reddish brown, reddish yellow, gray and reddish gray. This depth of color varies across a spectrum from light to dark.
- Varying Dental Morphology
Dentin is a yellow-brown layer of tooth substance that lies underneath the protective white enamel. If the overlying enamel is thin, it is likely that the teeth will appear yellow as the underlying dentin shows through it unlike when the enamel is relatively thick.
- Food and Drinks
A wide range of food and drinks that we consume daily are known to induce staining in teeth. Common examples include tomatoes, curry, berries, coffee, soft drinks, and even juices.
Fluorosis is a condition that results when developing teeth are exposed to excessive amounts of fluoride that thereby result in surface morphological changes such as discoloration. Fluoride is good for teeth when consumed in restricted amounts. Primary sources of fluoride include fluoridated water, tablets, mouthwashes, and fluoride treatments. It is crucial to monitor the amount of fluoride consumed by a child daily in order to avoid any prospects of fluorosis development.
- Accidents and Parafunctional Habits
Physical trauma often results in cracks on the tooth surface that can progress further to cause internalized damage. Such damage almost always results in discoloration and indicates the possibility of bleeding. Immediate professional consultation is advised before there is further damage. Similarly, parafunctional habits, such a tooth grinding, can weaken as well as discolor teeth. Parafunctional habits are not the result of conscious effort and are most commonly associated with stress, therefore, professional attention is advised.
Prevention and Treatment Solutions
Coming to avoidance and prevention of yellow discoloration, there are a few helpful measures one can take. For prevention, consider dietary changes and an overall improved oral healthcare plan. Brush your teeth twice daily to prevent the buildup of yellow surface stains. Follow up with flossing at least once daily. To fix an already established condition, scaling, tooth polishing, and whitening treatments such as whitening strips or bleaching, are recommended along with toothpaste, mouthwashes, and cosmetic treatment such as veneers.
Prevention is always better than cure. Try to quit any potentially harmful habits such as smoking, drinking too much soda, or consuming foods that are known to cause staining. Maintain a habit of regularly rinsing your mouth after consuming any such item. For further assistance, consult your dentist and choose the best treatment plan for yourself.