Your tooth colour is something unique to you, as everyone’s teeth are a slightly different shade. Some people are lucky enough to have naturally white teeth, while other have naturally darker teeth. However teeth can become stained and this can be due to a variety of different reasons. It can be down to diet and lifestyle habits, and teeth do become darker with age.
Which Habits Are Worst for Causing Tooth Staining?
If you are in the habit of drinking large amounts of tea or coffee, or red wine in your teeth are likely to become more stained. The same is true if you like to eat a lot of highly coloured foods with deep coloured sources such as tomato-based sauces or curries. Fruit teas are also very bad for teeth as they tend to be quite highly coloured and also quite acidic.
Foods high in acid can be quite a problem for staining teeth, as even if they are white, such as white wine, they will eat away at the tooth enamel causing it to erode. The weakened tooth enamel is far more likely to absorb colour from other foods, and a thin layer of enamel will expose more of the darker coloured dentin underneath.
Nicotine stains from smoking or chewing tobacco will also affect the colour of your teeth, and it isn’t difficult to spot the teeth of a long-term smoker.
Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth Makes Them More Susceptible to Staining
If you have bruxism, and grind or clench your teeth then they are more likely to have little tiny cracks and chips in them. These little fractures in the teeth will open up slightly every time you bite down or chew, and will allow stains to penetrate the teeth more easily.
Certain Medications Can Cause Staining
If you have ever been described tetracycline or certain other antibiotics then your teeth may have developed discolorations. Affected teeth tend to look grey or brown, especially if you took the medication while young when your teeth were still being formed.
Why do Teeth Change Color as We Get Older?
Children’s and young adult’s teeth are covered with a thick layer of enamel, and this gives them a slightly opaque-ish whitish appearance. The enamel covers up a substance called dentin which contains the natural color of the tooth. This colour is largely predetermined by genetics, so you may be lucky and have naturally white dentin.
As we get older this enamel layer gradually wears down, becoming thinner and more translucent. This allows more of the underlying colour to show through. If you look at the teeth of an older person you’ll notice they tend to look quite transparent towards the incisal or biting edges, while the rest the tooth may look grey or yellow.
In comparison the teeth of a younger person are quite uniform in colour and there is little difference between the shade at the tip of the tooth and the shade nearest to the gum line. This is the type of healthy white smile that most people strive for, as it naturally appears more youthful.
How Can Teeth Stains Be Removed?
Having your teeth professionally cleaned at your dental office will help remove some of the surface stains, but the effect won’t be particularly dramatic unless you have exceptionally dirty teeth.
Having your teeth whitened, either in the dental surgery or at home will give a more pronounced effect. It is worthwhile asking your dentist for the cause of your teeth staining, as some stains such as tetracycline are more resistant towards bleaching and may require an alternative course of action.
After you have whitened your teeth, making small lifestyle changes can help prolong the effects.