Nobody Likes Having Stained Teeth

Perhaps, like many other Americans, you’ve looked at your smile in the mirror and thought with dismay, “My teeth are yellow.” Or, “I have coffee stains on my teeth.” Or simply that your stained teeth just aren’t as white as they used to be or as you’d like them to be.

The number of commercials for stained-teeth remedies we see on television reveals just how common such thoughts are. But before you rush out to the pharmacy to buy whitening strips or teeth stain remover, it might be worthwhile to learn a little more about teeth staining.

Stained teeth

The Causes of Stained Teeth

Several things can result in stained teeth. These include food, drinks, smoking, stain-causing particles in the tooth enamel, and even just getting older. As you might expect, the solution to getting your teeth white and keeping them that way can depend to some degree on what stained them in the first place.

Foods that Stain Teeth

Foods with a vivid color are the likeliest to stain your teeth. Yellow curries, red pasta saucers, and berries like raspberries and blueberries all have the potential to cause problems.

Drinks that Stain Teeth

The principle here is the same as it is with food. Drinks with a deep or bright color are apt to produce stains. Watch out for dark-colored soft drinks like colas, red wine, coffee, and tea. Surprisingly, even green and white tea can give you problems in this regard and also erode tooth enamel.

Braces and Tooth Staining

Some people think braces themselves stain teeth, but that’s actually not correct. It’s the kind or oral care the teeth received when the braces were on that’s to blame for the light staining that’s sometimes visible when they come off.

Preventing Stained Teeth

From the information above, you can probably guess that one way to prevent teeth staining is to steer clear of the foods and beverages likely to cause it. It’s also helpful to give up smoking, brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, rinse with mouthwash, and visit your dentist twice a year (more often if recommended) for cleanings and checkups. If you wear braces, don’t over-whiten your teeth. If you do, you could end up with variations in color when the braces come off.

Some people have touted toothpastes containing activated charcoal as a way of preventing or eliminating stains. But so far, there’s no real evidence that it works, and toothpastes containing charcoal can have side effects including constipation, abrasion of tooth enamel and guns, and blocking the beneficial effects of medicine that you’re taking. They don’t have fluoride, either, and are probably not the way you want to go to deal with teeth staining.

Stained Teeth and Teeth Whitening

Teeth can end up stained due to surface stains, under-the-surface stains, and age-related stains. The good news here is that commercial teeth whitening can address all of these. The bad news is that it’s not permanent. You might need additional treatments from time to time. (Although possibly not if you make lifestyle changes that remove the cause of your teeth becoming stained.)

You may wonder if you really need teeth whitening. If you’re dissatisfied with the appearance of your smile, it’s worth discussing the matter with your dentist. He or she can advise you.

If you do decide on teeth whitening, you have various options. Stores offer over-the-counter treatments like whitening toothpaste and whitening kits. Your dentist may suggest a use-at-home kit as well, but the one he or she gives you is likely to contain a more concentrated, powerful form of bleach. In the office, dentists sometimes use a hydrogen peroxide gel, possibly accompanied by the light from a special lamp, and even veneers to deal with staining.

The various treatments available vary on matters like efficacy, the amount time it takes for them to work, and cost. As a general rule, it’s probably fair to say that you’ll get superior results but also pay somewhat more for the treatment a professional provides based on a trained assessment of your individual case.

You may experience some sensitivity after a treatment to reverse teeth staining. More seriously, if you misuse or overuse whitening products, you could end up with permanent discoloration and damaged tooth enamel.

Teeth whitening is best undertaken when you know your mouth is free of decay. So the best time to start is after you’ve had your teeth cleaned and checked.