Not everyone needs to have teeth whitening done, but often teeth lose their natural shine and lustre over time and begin to look dingy grey or yellow, so need something done to ramp up that lovely clean colour. There are several reasons for this to happen.
- Wine, coffee and black tea and cola all have a part to play in staining teeth
- What we eat can often cause the teeth to become discoloured, especially food that has a deep blue or purplish colour, such as blueberries and mulberries
- Dental decay that may have gone unnoticed causes teeth to look black or very dark grey
- The use of certain antibiotics such as tetracycline can discolour teeth, especially when taken at a young age
- Smoking causes a yellowish/brown stain on the teeth.
These causes all affect the outside of the teeth – the enamel – so it is called extrinsic staining.
Intrinsic staining happens when the dentine, the inner part of the tooth, not the enamel – goes a darker colour. This can be due to –
- Exposure to excess fluoride as a young child, before the tooth enamel is properly formed
- Your mother using tetracycline while she was in the 2nd half of her pregnancy with you
- You were given tetracycline between the ages of 1-8
- You fell and damaged a permanent tooth when you were young
- Trauma to a permanent tooth that caused it to bleed internally
- You were born with dentinogenesis imperfect, which is a rare condition that causes teeth to be discoloured.
- Age is also a factor in the discolouration of teeth. As we age the enamel on our teeth becomes thinner, allowing the yellowish dentine to show through more easily
- Any damage to the nerve of the tooth will cause discolouration.
- Root canal treatment also causes intrinsic discolouration.
Some extrinsic staining can be removed by the dentist or by bleaching your teeth at home in some way. Using a whitening toothpaste may work to some extent and is safer than some other kinds of treatment that can burn the gums if care is not taken. While the results are never permanent unless you stop eating and drinking all those things that are likely to discolour them again, you can certainly have the whitening treatment again to take care of it.
Removing intrinsic staining is a very different matter and you should be guided by the advice of a professional. Very severe discolouration that cannot be removed, such as that caused by tetracycline, can be covered by veneers or with a composite bonding material. What you have done depends on advice from the dentist and what you can afford.