What you need to know

Teeth whitening is the process of using bleach or other materials to make teeth look whiter. The materials remove stains or other discolouration from the tooth surface.

Purpose for whitening teeth 

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic treatment done to improve the appearance of teeth. Teeth are whitened to remove the effects of coffee, cigarettes, and other substances that permanently stain or discolour teeth.

Medications such as antibiotics like tetracycline may discolour teeth. Fluorosis a condition caused by absorbing too much fluoride could affect tooth colour. Furthermore, aging also causes teeth to loose their bright colour.


Causes of teeth discolouration

There are several reasons why teeth may darken. These include:

• Food/drinks, coffee, tea, wines, and certain fruits and vegetables (for example, apples and potatoes) can stain your teeth.

• Tobacco use, smoking or chewing tobacco can stain teeth.

• Poor dental hygiene, inadequate brushing and flossing to remove plaque and stain producing substances like coffee and tobacco can cause tooth discolouration.

Several diseases that affect the enamel (the hard surface of the teeth) and dentin (the underlying material under the enamel) can lead to tooth discolouration. In addition, treatments for certain conditions can also affect tooth colour. For example, head and neck radiation and chemotherapy can cause teeth discolouration. In addition, certain infections in pregnant mothers can cause tooth discolouration in the infant by affecting the enamel. The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline are known to discolour teeth when given to children whose teeth are still developing (before the age of 8), mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain your teeth. 

Antihistamines like Benadryl antipsychotic drugs and antihypersensitive medications can also cause teeth discolouration. As you age, the outer layer of the enamel on your teeth gets worn away revealing the natural yellow colour of the dentin.

Genetically, some people have naturally brighter or thicker enamel than others.

Excessive fluoride either from environmental sources (naturally high fluoride levels in water) from excessive use (fluoride applications, rinses tooth paste and fluoride supplements taken by moth) can cause teeth discolouration.

Trauma for example, damage from a fall can disturb enamel formation in young children whose teeth are still developing as a result damaging the tooth nerves. Trauma can also cause discolouration in adults.

How can I prevent teeth discolouration?

By making a few simple lifestyle changes you may be able to prevent tooth discolouration; for example if you are a coffee drinker and/or smoker consider cutting back or quitting all together. Also, improve our dental hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly and getting your teeth cleaned by a dentist after every six months.

If your teeth appear to be abnormal colour without ready explanation, the abnormal tooth colour lasts despite following good oral hygiene practices, and if other symptoms are also present, make an appointment to see your dentist.

What treatment options are available to whiten teeth?

Treatment options can vary depending on the cause of discolouration and may include;

• Using proper tooth brushing and flossing techniques

• Bonding

• Veneers

• Whitening.


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