The Reasons for Tooth Discoloration

The enamel – the visible, outer coating of the teeth – is a very hard, durable substance designed to withstand the rigors of biting and chewing. Why does the enamel of one individual’s teeth appear to be white while the enamel of another’s teeth look yellow or gray?

There are many reasons why people have different shades of color in the enamel of the teeth.  Research has shown the causes of tooth discoloration are due to either intrinsic or extrinsic stains, age or heredity.

Intrinsic stains are those that affect the color of the structures on the inside of the tooth.  These changes could be caused by hereditary conditions – discolored teeth run in your family – , illness, certain medications, trauma to the teeth, or too much fluoride intake.

Extrinsic stains are those that affect a change directly on the enamel or through cracks in the tooth surface.  These stains can be caused by foods, poor dental hygiene, tobacco products, supplements containing iron, excessive intake of fluoride, medications, overuse of certain mouthwashes and certain dental materials, as well.

To prevent further enamel discoloration from extrinsic stains, avoid those foods, medications and other products that cause discoloration.  Brushing your tooth immediately after meals with also assist in removing any remaining food or drinks that may stain your teeth.

Unfortunately as we age, the enamel of our teeth thins and it then reflects the color of the underlying structure of the tooth, the dentin, and our teeth may then appear yellow or gray in color.

When the enamel of your teeth has discolored, you may decide to try one of the many whitening systems and products that are available over the counter or from your dental professional to whiten your teeth.  Tooth whiteners can range from toothpastes and mouth washes that can lighten the color of your tooth by one shade, all the way up to light-activated whitening conducted in your dental professional’s office that can lighten your teeth by three to eight shades.

Before you opt for any type of tooth whitening system, speak with your dental professional to determine which type of system would be a more appropriate course of treatment for whitening your teeth.