Staining of Teeth

Wow! There are so many ways to get your teeth stained. If you were born in an area of high fluoride, or if your mom took tetracycline when she was pregnant, you might just be born with stained teeth. The environment for the infant has been deemed a factor for tooth discoloration problems

Food Stains

Most of you are aware that foods with color and foods that are acidic are more prone to cause a tooth staining problem. This includes coffee, tea, cola, sodas, sports drinks, berries, sauces and sweets. It almost seems that anything but drinking water can stain your teeth!

Dental Products

But there are more hidden places to get stains on your teeth. For example, Crest Pro-Health contains cetylpyridinium chloride, an ingredient that is listed on the back of the toothpaste as possibly staining teeth!

For people who need treatment with gum disease, we prescribe a product called Peridex (chlorhexidine) which is well known for staining teeth. My staff and I warn patients about that, and since the stains are on the surface, it will come off rather easily during a cleaning or periodontal maintenance appointment.

Habits

Smoking creates tooth staining. The more you smoke, the more of the contents of the smoke, like tar and nicotine, can leach into your teeth and leave behind the discoloration. Stains on the surface are relatively easy to remove. Stains that penetrate the tooth are relatively hard to get out. Whitening treatments have some success but may require ongoing sessions to achieve an acceptable shade.

Solutions

Some patients brush with baking soda. This is good for surface stains but there is a downside. Baking soda is abrasive and can cause a problem where the root is exposed. The root is relatively soft and has no enamel. The abrasiveness over an extended period of time will remove some of the tooth structure, something we definitely don’t want!

My recommendation for treatment of undesirable teeth staining is the whitening trays. Patients have impressions made and trays fabricated. They then will place the whitening gel in the tray and wear the tray for the desired amount of time (usually 2-6 hours daily) for at least 2 weeks. Yes, there can be short term sensitivity which can be tempered by using a tooth sensitivity toothpaste a couple of weeks before the whitening starts (preferred) and during the bleaching process. This approach gives good results much of the time, and seems to be the most cost effective. The patient can purchase additional whitening gel and put it in their trays, and my patients have usually reported that they are happy with this. Unfortunately, whitening doesn’t work on everyone, but if you don’t try you’ll never know!