Dental Discoloration and How to Treat It

Even if you have no cavities, you are probably concerned about the appearance of your teeth. After all, they are displayed when you eat or smile, so others see and judge them on a regular basis. 

One of the most common cosmetic dental issues is discoloration. Teeth that are yellow or darkly stained can make your smile look less attractive, and even if the teeth are healthy, they may appear decayed. Here are a few questions about dental discoloration to help you understand why it occurs and how it can be treated:

Why does dental discoloration occur?

Dental discoloration is often the result of staining that occurs as the tooth enamel absorbs edible pigments. Although the enamel of a tooth appears to be a solid material, it actually has many pores, and they can harbor colorants that yellow the teeth. As you eat and drink dark substances, such as tea or blueberries, your teeth retain more and more colorants to deepen discoloration.

Discoloration can also occur as a side effect of specific medications, such as tetracycline. Darkened teeth can also result from a blow to the teeth or from a congenital defect. In addition, some discoloration occurs with age as the tooth enamel wears away, exposing the yellow dentin underneath. These types of discoloration, which are not associated with pigment absorption, are considered permanent.

How can dental staining from absorbed pigments be whitened?

Dental bleaches can be used to whiten teeth that that have been yellowed from a deeply pigmented diet. The bleaches, which are used in professional products as well as at-home whitening kits, usually include peroxide as an active ingredient.  

Professional applications that are performed by a dental professional take place in the dentist's office. During the professional application of the bleaching product, the gums and other soft tissues of the oral cavity are protected to prevent irritation. Although several professional sessions may be required to whiten severely stained teeth to the desired shade, the teeth are usually noticeably whiter after a single application..

At-home kits are effective but work more slowly than professional applications.

How can permanent discoloration be treated?

Permanent discoloration does not respond to chemical whiteners. Thus, this type of discoloration cannot be whitened using dental bleach. Instead, cosmetic dental applications, such as crowns or veneers, must be used to cover it. Since the color of crowns and veneers can be selected, they can make the teeth look like as white as desired.

To learn more about teeth whitening and to determine the best way to whiten your teeth, consult with a cosmetic dentist in your area.