Lakewood Dentist Shines Light On Why Your Teeth Look Darker

Posted .

Even though dental discoloration is generally not as severe as other oral health conditions, teeth that aren’t white might impact your life more than you think. Research suggests that teeth that aren’t white might cost you a job, finances, and even a chance at love. 

Since ancient times, white teeth have been regarded as a symbol of youth, attractiveness, and even riches. Around 4,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians created a paste of ground pumice and vinegar. Then, they brushed this abrasive mixture with frayed tree branches. Ancient Romans bleached their teeth with the ammonia found in urine. (Yes, you read that right.) During the 1600s, barbers were responsible for cutting hair and eroding tooth enamel for a whiter appearance.

In this blog, our East Dallas dental team explains the different types of staining, the leading reasons you might have discoloration, and what to do about it.

Staining Categorized

A common misconception is that it’s possible to lift all dental stains with a whitening treatment. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. When your Lakewood dentist identifies the type of stain, he can understand how to treat it.

Extrinsic Stains

Did you know that your teeth consist of multiple layers? The outermost covering that peeks out of the gums is called enamel. Enamel is the thin, translucent, and hardest substance in the human body. Although dental enamel is prone to staining, extrinsic stains that affect the enamel are easily eliminated or corrected.

Intrinsic Stains

Also, it’s important to note that if you lose too much enamel, you’ll expose your secondary level of teeth (dentin). Although enamel is the visible portion of the tooth, the dentin is responsible mainly for the tooth’s color. Dentin is a deep yellow to brownish tissue inside your teeth. When the dentin is stained, it’s classified as an intrinsic stain. Compared to extrinsic stains, intrinsic stains are much more challenging to treat.

The Top Reasons Why Your Teeth Have an Undesirable Tinge

Although the leading cause of teeth yellowing is lifestyle, we break down the top eight reasons your teeth might appear discolored.

1. Genetics

Just like eye or hair color, we can inherit the hue of our teeth. Simply, your genetics may cause your teeth to have a slightly more yellow appearance. Some individuals might have thicker tooth enamel, making the teeth appear naturally brighter. At the same time, others have naturally thinner enamel, which allows the underlying dentin to shine through. If one of your parents has yellow teeth, yours will likely be a similar shade.

2. Age

As you get older, your teeth naturally darken. Primarily, you can blame the that the outer layer of your teeth thins over time. Thus, making the teeth appear more yellow.

3. Tobacco Use

Compared to non-smokers, smokers complain more about moderate and severe levels of discoloration. Yet, why does this side-effect of tobacco use occur? When nicotine mixes with oxygen in the air, it creates a chemical reaction that causes yellow teeth. However, nicotine is water-soluble and doesn’t stick to teeth as much as tar and other chemical residues from tobacco. The tar attaches to the enamel, leading to the infamous yellowish-brown color synonymous with tobacco use.

4. Diet

Some food and drinks are rich in tannins, which are plant-based pigments that adhere to and stain the enamel. Among coffee, tea, and red wine, a wide range of drinks and food stain teeth.

5. Antibiotics

Did your mother take tetracycline during the second half of her pregnancy? Were you prescribed tetracycline before the age of eight? Early exposure to this antibiotic might lead to permanently stained teeth.

During the tooth mineralization stage, tetracycline binds to the calcium ions in the teeth. When the developing permanent teeth finally emerge, they might have a fluorescent yellow tinge. Eventually, the tetracycline oxidizes with light exposure, changing from fluorescent yellow to brown or gray.

6. Fluorosis

Famously, fluoride supports oral health by preventing tooth decay. However, excessive fluoride (also known as fluorosis) can lead to white, yellow, or brownish-yellow spots on the enamel.

7. Physical Trauma

If you’ve had an accident that cracked your enamel and damaged your dentin, you might experience discoloration. Specifically, experiencing physical trauma as a young child while your permanent teeth are still developing can disturb the formation of tooth enamel. Early dental trauma could lead to a grayish appearance. Likewise, traumatic injuries damaging nerves, dentin, and enamel at any age can lead to permanent dental discoloration.

8. Bruxism

Bruxism is the involuntary, habitual grinding of teeth—usually during sleep or as a stress response. Generally, bruxism involves moving the jaw with the teeth held together, resulting in substantial visible wear, tear, and flattening of teeth. As your enamel weakens from bruxism, it can cause the enamel to crack and erode, resulting in yellowing.