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Ballston Dental Arts
900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

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Reasons and Remedies for Tooth Discoloration

As Americans, we spend billions every year on making our teeth whiter. Learning the reasons for the discoloration can help you avoid wasting time and money trying to get whiter teeth. Keep reading to discover why your smile isn’t as bright as you want and learn which recommendations will help you get the results you want. Whiter teeth are closer than you think!

What Are the Main Causes of Tooth Discoloration?

Teeth can become discolored for numerous reasons, including:

Aging – Tooth enamel wears down as we age. While some people have stronger and thicker tooth enamel, it eventually happens to everyone. The dentin, the middle layer of the tooth, is naturally yellow and darker than enamel and when the enamel wears down, the color begins to show through.

Poor Dental Hygiene – When plaque and tartar accumulate on your teeth, your teeth can appear dingy and yellow due to the buildup.

Tobacco Use – Smoking cigarettes or cigars or using chewing tobacco will stain your teeth.

Consuming Certain Foods and Beverages – Certain foods and drinks, even if they are healthy and delicious, can stain your teeth.

Medications – Medications, such as high blood pressure drugs and antidepressants will discolor teeth. Some antibiotics may stain teeth as well. Talk to your dentist if you are concerned your medication is causing stained teeth.

Trauma – An accident or fall can cause discolored teeth if the tooth is damaged.

Old Fillings – Old metal fillings can make teeth look gray.

Which Foods and Beverages Stain Teeth?

The culprits include foods and beverages with a high acidic content and dark pigments.

  • Coffee and Tea – Two of the main culprits we like to drink every day!
  • Red Wine – Red wine is particularly dangerous as it can roughen enamel, making it easier for stains to stick.
  • Colas such as dark, carbonated sodas.
  • Dark fruit juices like grape and cranberry juice
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Cherries
  • Slushies
  • Chocolate

If a food or beverage will stain your light colored carpeting or clothing, it will most likely stain your teeth. You don’t have to avoid these products entirely, after all, blueberries are a superfood, just brush or rinse your mouth afterward with water. Most foods on the list will only stain after an extended period of time or if you have poor oral hygiene habits.

Which Foods Can Whiten Teeth Naturally?

Some nutritious and delicious foods can help you combat tooth staining, including:

  • Water
  • Sugarless Gum
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Raw Carrots
  • Raw Celery
  • Nuts
  • Pineapple
  • Raw cauliflower
  • Cheese

Many of these foods help combat staining by scrubbing teeth as you eat them, although some, like strawberries, contain malic acid which acts as a natural bleaching agent.

Is Tobacco Ruining Your Teeth?

Tar and nicotine will turn your teeth yellow. Eventually your teeth will get brown stains unless you take action, but that isn’t your only problem. Tobacco use can also damage your gums; smokers are twice as likely to get gum disease than nonsmokers. Not to mention a host of other health issues caused by smoking.

The Truth About Tobacco-Related Staining

Dentists agree that smoking and chewing tobacco use is a primary reason for their patient’s tooth staining. Quitting tobacco use is the best thing you can do for your teeth, as well as being beneficial to your overall health. If you are not in a position to stop smoking right now, ask your dentist or doctor for more information on the resources available to you to help. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

How Can Tobacco Users Combat Staining?

Fighting tobacco stains isn’t easy, but you can help keep your teeth more healthy by:

  • Practicing good at-home dental hygiene
  • Getting your teeth cleaned twice a year
  • Cutting back on your tobacco use
  • Brushing your teeth after smoking
  • Using a whitening toothpaste

What Can Tobacco Users Do to Whiten Their Teeth?

Long-term nicotine use stains every tooth in your mouth, so over-the-counter products won’t be all that effective. Smokers need professional teeth whitening by a dentist to eradicate the stains. Even after receiving dramatic results, tobacco users will see the stains return if they don’t quit smoking. Dentists frequently have resources for their patients who are interested in quitting.

What Can I Do to Lessen Teeth Staining?

To help keep your lifestyle from discoloring your teeth:
Practice good oral hygiene at home.

  • Get a dental cleaning twice a year.
  • Keep up with regular dental exams.
  • Sip staining liquids through a straw.
  • Brush after eating foods that can stain teeth. You can also rinse your teeth with water or chew sugarless gum if brushing isn’t possible.
  • If you smoke or chew tobacco, try to cut down.

What Are My Teeth Whitening Options?

Always talk to your dentist before starting any teeth whitening treatment option to ensure it will work on your type of staining.

Whitening Toothpastes – Look for tooth whitening toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal effectiveness. They brighten teeth by scrubbing away stains from the surface of teeth, not by bleaching them. Expect to lighten your teeth by a shade or two.

Over-the-Counter Gels and Strips – These inexpensive products contain a mild bleaching agent. Always use as directed or you could experience tooth sensitivity. Mall kiosks and spas sometimes off tray-based teeth whitening by non dental employees. Beware, these individuals cannot examine your teeth first to look for underlying dental problems, nor can they customize your treatment if you have restorations. They also use products that do not have FDA approval, unlike dentists who can use stronger, FDA approved bleaching agents.

At-Home, Tray-Based Teeth Bleaching Kits from Your Dentist – This is a safer, more effective option than OTC tray-based systems. Your dentist creates a custom tray for you to keep the bleaching agent off your gums. He or she can also use a stronger solution that you can buy OTC. You wear the tray for about an hour a night for two weeks or as directed.

Chairside Teeth Whitening – This dentist-supervised procedure produces the most dramatic results.

If you’re interested in whitening your teeth safely and getting the best possible results, talk to one of our dentists.

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Ballston Dental Arts

900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

(703) 291-3111