What are the main causes of discoloured teeth?
Teeth can become discoloured by stains on the surface or by changes inside the tooth. There are three main types of tooth discolouration –
- Extrinsic: This occurs when the outer layer of the tooth enamel is stained. Coffee, tea, wine, cooldrink, and food, as well as smoking, can stain teeth.
- Intrinsic: this occurs when the inner structure of the tooth (dentin) darkens. It can be caused by several factors, i.e. the use of too much fluoride; if a mother used tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy; if tetracycline antibiotics were given to children under 8 years of age. Other causes maybe if you have experienced trauma to a tooth, resulting in internal bleeding, or if you were born with ‘dentinogenesis imperfecta’, which causes grey, amber or purple discolouring.
- Age-related: This is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Dentin naturally yellows over time, and as the enamel gets thinner with age, it results in the yellow dentin ore being revealed.
When should you seriously consider whitening your teeth?
When you become self-conscious and stop smiling.
What are the benefits of a whiter smile?
We live in an era of selfies and social media and always want to look at our best. This is often the reason for teeth whitening, the most popular form of cosmetic dentistry, which provides people with more confidence.
As a dentist, what is your opinion on teeth whitening?
Make sure it is in the patient’s best interest. As dentists, we can change an individual’s life by giving them a new smile.
What about kits that you can use at home – do you feel they give good results?
Kits that you can use at home, or custom whitening trays, are probably the best, longest lasting and most suitable way to whiten your teeth. The trays are made by your dentist after taking impressions of your teeth. With the latest generation of home bleaching products, you also do not need to keep the trays on overnight. Depending on which product you use, you can keep the trays in from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Most people achieve the results they want within 2-3 weeks’ use, although it may take up to 6-8 weeks for more stubborn teeth. Whatever you choose, always have it done by a dental professional and remember, whitening is not a one-time thing and will not last forever.
Toothpaste promising a whiter smile – do they work?
The use of “whitening toothpaste” is a bit misleading. Toothpaste can only lighten your teeth superficially by removing stains and this is accomplished by being more abrasive than regular toothpaste. Whitening toothpaste cannot change the internal colour of your teeth.
Do you feel it is the best option to perform tooth whitening in-chair at the dentist?
In a chair at the dentist is a good option if you need your teeth whitened in just one day. A much higher concentration of bleach is used, and the whitening effect is strongest 24-48 hours after the process. This option is safe, but you must top up with a home kit as the effectiveness of some treatments rebound quickly.