Updated: Apr 17
Brushing and flossing are everyday ways to keep your teeth white and healthy. If you feel your smile is lacking luster or is more yellowish than it used to be, not to worry! You are definitely not alone in this struggle. There are many reasons and factors for this. Let's dive in!
Over the years your teeth can go from white to not so bright for many different reasons:
Food & Drink
Coffee, tea and my favorite red wine are some major culprits. Intense color pigments called chromogens attach to the enamel which is the outer part of our teeth.
Chemicals found in tobacco are responsible for stubborn stains. Tar & nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until it comes into contact with oxygen. It then turns into a yellow staining substance.
Over time the tooth enamel layer gets thinner from brushing and more of the yellowish inner layer (dentin) shows through.
If your mouth suffered trauma, your tooth/teeth may change color when it reacts to an injury by producing more dentin.
Darker teeth can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, antipsychotics & blood pressure medications. Children who have taken antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when their teeth are developing may have discoloration of their adult.
What can be done?
Teeth whitening is a simple and effective process. Whitening products contain one of either tooth bleaches (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These compounds break down discolorations, making the color less pronounced and your teeth whiter.
Whitening doesn't work on all teeth, so it is important to discuss with your dentist before deciding to start a whitening regime. Not all whitening treatments correct all different types of discolorations. Yellowish teeth will most likely bleach well whereas brown teeth may not respond quite as well and those with grey tones may not bleach at all. It is important to note that whitening will not work on capped teeth, veneers, crowns or fillings. Equally it won’t be effective if your tooth discoloration is caused by directly by medication or a tooth trauma.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening is a simple process. Whitening products contain one of two tooth bleaches (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.
Different Whitening Options:
All toothpastes help reduce surface stains through the action of gentle abrasives. Be sure to look for whitening toothpastes that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance which you can find on the package. These toothpastes have additional polishing agents that are safe for your teeth and provide effective stain removal. Unlike bleaches, these types of products do not alter the color of teeth because they only remove stains on the surface of the tooth.
Dentist Office Bleaching Treatments
A procedure known as chairside bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect your gums. A bleaching agent is then applied to your teeth.
Your dentist can provide you with a custom-made tray for at-home whitening. A mold of youth teeth is required. This is a great option if you feel more comfortable whitening in your own home at your discretion. It may take a matter of a few treatments or a few weeks depending on how your teeth respond and what level of brightness you are trying to achieve.
Over-the-Counter Bleaching Products
Many different options are available online or in your local pharmacy such as toothpastes or strips that help whiten by bleaching your teeth. Do note that the concentration of the bleaching agent in such products is lower than what your dentist would use. It's good to get a list of all ADA-Accepted at-home bleaching products before purchasing one.