Are your teeth the colour of your summer tan?

A lot of people experience discoloured teeth. This week we will look briefly at some common causes of tooth discolouration and what can be done to prevent it. Next week we will look at what treatment options there are to help whiten already discoloured teeth.

There are several reasons why teeth may darken. These include:

• Eating or drinking certain foods and drink. Common things include tea, coffee, soft drinks, wines and even fruits. A general rule of thumb is if it can stain a white shirt, it can most likely stain your teeth.
• Genetics. The whiteness of your teeth is basically determined by the thickness of your enamel. While certain things can erode away your enamel making your teeth appear darker, the original thickness of your enamel is genetically determined.
• The natural aging process. As mentioned above, we are all born with a pre-determined thickness of enamel. With age and the natural and unnatural wear and tear our teeth go through, that enamel starts to erode, revealing more of the underlying yellow dentine.
• Tobacco. Both smoking and chewing tobacco can stain teeth.
• Poor dental care. Not brushing and flossing regularly and or thoroughly, can lead to a build up of both plaque as well as stains from food and drink which can cause a darkening of teeth
• Trauma to your teeth. Knocks to teeth due to say a sports injury or from a fall can lead to the nerve in the tooth becoming
• Certain dental materials. Some fillings materials used in dentistry, such as amalgam, can stain your teeth a grey/black colour.
• Several diseases and the treatment thereof, can cause staining. Such examples include radiation and chemotherapy, especially if concentrated in the head and neck region.
• Medications. Certain medications such as a group of antibiotics known as tetracycline’s can discolour teeth if given to children when their teeth are still developing.
As always, prevention is better than cure. While it can’t be helped in certain cases, there is a lot you can do to prevent or minimise discolouration of your teeth. A few ways you can do this include:
• Reducing the amount of foods and drinks you consume that discolour teeth
• Quitting smoking altogether.
• Improving your oral hygiene with through brushing, flossing and regular dental check ups.

For stains that do not seem to disappear despite all your efforts, it may be necessary to see your dentist about what can be done.