There are several different factors that can cause tooth discoloration. Color changes may either affect the entire tooth, or just appear as spots or lines on tooth surfaces. Tooth discoloration falls into 3 major categories: Extrinsic, Intrinsic and Age-related.
- Extrinsic tooth discoloration occurs when the outer surface of the tooth is stained. This is commonly caused by drinking coffee, tea, colas, red wines and eating certain fruits and vegetables such as apples, blueberries and potatoes. Smoking and chewing tobacco are also common in causing extrinsic stains. Inadequate flossing and brushing to remove plaque and stain producing substances also adds to make the teeth appear yellowish or dark.
- Intrinsic tooth discoloration occurs when the inner surface of the tooth darkens. The most common types of discoloration under this category are fluorosis and tetracycline stains. Fluorosis is caused by excessive fluoride intake causing the teeth to have chalky white spots or brown marks. Some antibiotics such as minocycline and tetracycline when used during early childhood or second half of pregnancy period may become incorporated with the inner structure of the tooth causing the intrinsic staining of teeth with a brownish to grayish color.
- Age-related discoloration is usually a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. When a person becomes older, the mineral structure of the teeth becomes less porous, making the teeth appear darker. The outer portion of the teeth gets thinner allowing the yellowish inner surface become more visible. In some cases, a tooth which is extrinsically stained for a long period of time penetrates the inner tooth structure, contributing to the natural yellowing of the teeth.
Teeth Whitening Products
There are plenty of teeth whitening products available that can remove surface stains and help whiten the teeth. When choosing among these alternatives, always consider effectiveness, method, cost, and any possible risks of the product.
Teeth Whitening Gums - The least expensive and the easiest teeth whitening product to use. These products are available over-the-counter and can be used daily. Major gum brands such as Trident and Orbit have released teeth whitening gums that claim to serve freshening of breath and creating brighter smiles.
Teeth Whitening Toothpastes - Contain mild abrasives which help in the removal of stains on the outer surface of the tooth while brushing. Some toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Some of the toothpastes which have established a name for effective whitening properties are Opalescence Plus Best Whitening Toothpaste, Arm & Hammer Complete Care Extra Whitening, Rembrandt Plus Peroxide, Rembrandt Premium Extra Gentle, Crest 3D White Vivid and Colgate Total Whitening.
Teeth Whitening Strips - One of the first over-the-counter teeth whitening products to hit the market. Most whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about four months. Best sellers include Crest 3D Whitestrips Professional Effects, Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips and Rembrandt Intense Stain Dissolving Strip.
Teeth Whitening Gels - Clear and peroxide-based, applied by using a small and soft brush placed directly on the surface teeth. These gels should be used twice a day to get significant results which can be noticed within the first few days of application. Some popular products include Watts Power White Gel, Opalescence Gel and Plus White Gel.
Teeth Whitening Rinses - The latest innovation among the various whitening products. This rinse contains a healthy amount of hydrogen peroxide. This rinse resembles an ordinary mouthwash which helps freshen one’s breath and get rid of gum disorders except that it also aims to whiten the teeth. Rembrandt Plus Peroxide Whitening Mouthwash and Crest 3D White Multi-Care Whitening Rinse are two of most recommended brands in the market.
Tray-Based Teeth Whiteners - Purchased over-the-counter or from a dentist. This product is commonly sold in kits. It involves the use of a mouth guard-like tray with a whitening solution that is gel-based which contains peroxide-bleaching agent. This tray can be worn for either a couple of hours everyday or regularly during the whole night. Some brands that are being sold over-the-counter are SmileFusion Whitening Gels Kit, Plus White 5 Minute Speed Whitening Kit and Dentek Complete White Professional Whitening.
Whitening Floss - Does not actually bleach the teeth, but it makes teeth look whiter by removing dark particles between them. Some floss contains microscopic abrasive particles. Other products contain calcium hydroxide that helps dissolve some excess proteins which causes discoloration of teeth. Supersmile Whitening Dental Floss and Plackers Whitening Flossers are a few examples of this product.