What Causes Tooth Staining?


Teeth Staining mainly occurs from our day to day lifestyle.  Our diet and habits are the main contributing factors, drinking coffee, tea, red wine and smoking are the obvious ones.  Over time stains build up on the enamel of your teeth and cause them to look many shades darker.  Teeth whitening will remove these stains.  There are some stains however that occur inside the teeth which unfortunately whitening is unable to remove.

Most of us start out with white teeth, thanks to their porcelain-like enamel surface which is composed of microscopic crystalline rods.  Tooth enamel is designed to protect the teeth from the effects of chewing, gnashing, trauma and acid attacks caused by sugar. But over the years enamel is worn down, becoming more transparent and permitting the yellow colour of dentin – the tooth's core material – to show through.

During routine chewing, dentin remains intact while millions of micro-cracks occur in the enamel. It is these cracks, as well as the spaces between the crystalline enamel rods, that gradually fill up with stains and debris. As a result, the teeth eventually develop a dull, lacklustre appearance.

There is a direct correlation between tooth colour and age. Over the years, teeth darken as a result of wear and tear and stain accumulation. Teenagers will likely experience immediate, dramatic results from whitening. In the twenties, as the teeth begin to show a yellow cast, teeth-whitening may require a little more effort. By the forties, the yellow gives way to brown and more maintenance may be called for. By the fifties, the teeth have absorbed a host of stubborn stains which can prove difficult (but not impossible) to remove.

Starting colour: 
We are all equipped with an inborn tooth colour that ranges from yellow-brownish to greenish-grey, and intensifies over time. Yellow-brown is generally more responsive to whitening than green-grey.

Translucency and thinness: 
These are also genetic traits that become more pronounced with age. While all teeth show some translucency, those that are opaque and thick have an advantage: they appear lighter in colour, show more sparkle and are generally more responsive to whitening. Teeth that are thinner and more transparent – most notably the front teeth – have less of the pigment that is necessary for whitening. According to cosmetic dentists, transparency is the only condition that cannot be corrected by any form of teeth whitening.

Eating habits: 
The habitual consumption of red wine, coffee, tea, cola, carrots, oranges and other deeply-coloured beverages and foods causes considerable staining over the years. In addition, acidic foods such as citrus fruits and vinegar contribute to enamel erosion. As a result, the surface becomes more transparent and more of the yellow-coloured dentin shows through.

Smoking habits: 
Nicotine leaves brownish deposits which slowly soak into the tooth structure and cause intrinsic discolouration.

Drugs / chemicals: 
Tetracycline usage during tooth formation produces dark grey or brown ribbon stains which are very difficult to remove.  Excessive consumption of fluoride causes fluorosis and associated areas of white mottling.  Fluorosis will often be enhanced directly after teeth whitening, however, this will return to it’s previous state within 1-12 hours.

Most frequently caused by stress, teeth grinding and gnashing can add to micro-cracking in the teeth and can cause the biting edges to darken.

Falls and other injuries can produce sizable cracks in the teeth, which collect large amounts of staining and debris.

Tooth Discolouration: 
There are two types of tooth staining, extrinsic staining and intrinsic staining.

Extrinsic stains:
Are those that appear on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to dark-coloured beverages, foods and tobacco, and routine wear and tear. Superficial extrinsic stains are minor and can be removed with brushing and prophylactic dental cleaning. Stubborn extrinsic stains can be removed with more involved efforts, like teeth whitening. Persistent extrinsic stains can penetrate into the dentin and become ingrained if they are not dealt with early.

Intrinsic stains:
Are those that form on the interior of teeth. Intrinsic stains result from trauma, aging, exposure to minerals, chemicals and antibiotics like tetracycline during tooth formation and/or excessive ingestion of fluoride.  These stains exist below the enamel and are unlikely to benefit from teeth whitening. 


How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

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