Imagine you just woke up for a date. You go to the bathroom to brush your teeth, and the moment you open your mouth, you get distraught by its color: yellow. What causes this? Is this because of something you ate—something you drank? Is it because teeth color changes as you grow older? Let’s find out.
First, let’s do a quick review of the 3 parts of a tooth: enamel, dentin, and pulp. The outermost part is the enamel, with the dentin underneath. The pulp is at the center of the tooth, which forms and gives nutrition to the dentin. The reason why teeth are white in the first place is because of the enamel, known to be the most mineralized tissue in our bodies.
No wonder it’s also the hardest.
It’s composed of a thin and translucent layer of calcified tissue—at least 95% of the enamel is made of calcium and phosphate ions. It has a variety of colors from one person to another, but it’s not naturally as white as your toothpaste advertisements and magazines. Actually, enamel looks more yellowish or grayish-white.
The enamel plays an important role as it protects the rest of the parts of the teeth from damage. Damage can be done through biting or chewing, or exposure to acids. The enamel also protects the rest of the teeth from changing temperatures, especially since the pulp is made of tissues that are sensitive to cold and heat.
However, as we grow older, the enamel wears off, exposing the darker colored dentin underneath it. But what else causes teeth discoloration? It could be intrinsic, extrinsic, or age-related (as we’ve discussed above).
Causes of Teeth Discoloration
- Food and drinks
- Poor dental hygiene
The different colors of the teeth can also give you an insight as to why discoloration occurs. For example, yellowish teeth can be caused by the enamel thinning and exposing the dentin through aging.
Brown teeth can be caused by drinking dark beverages such as coffee and tea. This is due to tannins building up in the enamel. Tannins are usually pale-yellow or light-brown substances found in coffee beans and tea leaves.
Things to avoid if you don’t want to stain your teeth:
- Tomato Sauce
- Carbonated Drinks
- Citrus Fruits
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
Must have one or more items on the list above?
- Rinse and brush
- Use straws
- Drink without letting it sit in your mouth
- Drink or eat non-staining alternatives
- Visit your dentist
A major red flag is when you see black on your teeth because this means that there is tooth decay or tooth pulp necrosis. Tooth decay is simply the process where your enamel softens and breaks down due to acids that bacteria produce as they consume sugar. Left untreated, it will likely drill a hole.
Meanwhile, tooth pulp necrosis happens when the pulp inside the tooth dies, which necessitate a root canal treatment.
What about white teeth?
There are several myths surrounding pearly white teeth. In fact, it’s a myth that white teeth are healthier. In fact, the color of our teeth changes as we grow older, and there are those with yellowish but perfectly healthy teeth.
It’s also a myth that teeth whitening is not recommended for children. In fact, a pediatric dentist can give you a realistic timeline as to when to whiten children’s teeth. Besides, they are just as prone—if not even more—to have discoloration in their teeth.
The largest myth of all is that hydrogen peroxide is a safe DIY whitening solution. NOT TRUE. In fact, it can even cause tissue damage because the solution contains a lot of free radicals.
Then, how can you prevent teeth discoloration?
There are various ways to prevent teeth discoloration. Here is a list of steps you may follow:
- Reduce consumption of staining food
- Get regular cleanings done
- Get a professional whitening treatment
- Use Veneers
- Get a full-mouth restoration or smile makeover
Why take care of your teeth in the first place?
There are numerous benefits to taking care of our teeth. In fact, there are some surprising ones! For example, brushing your teeth can save your lungs by mitigating gum disease, which is related to severe respiratory infections. Brushing your teeth also fights a bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum, which inhibits the ability of killer cells to attack cancer by providing a suitable environment for tumors.
How to keep your teeth strong and healthy:
- Brush your teeth before going to bed
- Brush properly
- Don’t forget the tongue
- Use Fluoride toothpaste
- Use mouthwash
- Drink your water
- Try crunchy fruits and vegetables
- Stay away from sugary and citric food
- See your dentist regularly, at least twice a year