Are you worried about yellow or dark teeth affecting your appearance? If your teeth are stained or discoloured, that doesn't always mean they're unhealthy, but it could affect your confidence when talking to people and smiling for photos.
To keep your teeth whiter for longer, it's important to understand what causes teeth stains in the first place. In this short guide, you'll find out what food and drink to avoid, how to keep plaque at bay and what cosmetic treatments your dentist might offer to restore your gleaming smile.
Avoid food and drink with strong pigments
A general rule of thumb: if food or drink can stain your clothes when it's spilled, it can stain your teeth too! Food and drink with strong pigmentation (carotenoids) can discolour teeth if these pigments pass through the transparent enamel layer and stain the softer dentine underneath.
Some of the most common sources of tooth stains are:
- red wine
- fruit juice and cordials
- soft drinks
- sport drinks
- dark sauces
If you don't want to cut these out of your diet completely, you can try to minimise their effect on your teeth by:
drinking through a straw to reduce contact with the front of the teeth
taking small sips so liquids spend less time in your mouth
taking sips of plain water to rinse your mouth
chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow
It's not just the obvious culprits that can cause tooth stains. Food and drink with high acidity can weaken the protective enamel layer of your teeth, making it easier for stains to form. Over time, this can also wear down the teeth and form cavities.
Take care with food and drink such as:
- white wine
- fruit juice and cordials
- soft drinks
- sport drinks
- citrus fruits
Soft drinks and fruit juices should also be avoided for their high sugar content. This can feed bacteria in plaque on the teeth, leading to tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Teeth stains from tobacco aren't one of the most urgent reasons to give up smoking, but it's another incentive. As well as damaging your overall health, smoking increases the risk of oral health problems such as gum disease and is the single largest risk factor for mouth cancer.
Check medications for side effects
Certain antibiotics and other medications can leave mineral deposits on the teeth that cause them to darken. This type of discolouration can't be removed through teeth bleaching treatments. If you're taking medication, check with your doctor about any side effects and discuss possible alternatives.
Protect your teeth from injury
Trauma to teeth can cause them to discolour. If you're playing contact sports or taking part in other activities that put your teeth at risk of injury, it's recommended that you wear a custom mouthguard. This should be designed by your dentist for your unique bite, to lower the risk of serious injuries.
Follow good oral hygiene
Teeth can turn yellow due to poor oral hygiene. If bacteria in plaque wear down the tooth enamel (tooth decay), this will expose more of the yellow dentine layer beneath. Plaque that hardens into calculus can also absorb pigments from food and drink more easily than tooth enamel.
To help keep plaque at bay, you should follow good oral hygiene habits every day. Dentists recommend:
- brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day
- use fluoride toothpaste (children should use special low-fluoride toothpaste before the age of 6)
- clean between your teeth using floss or an interdental brush once a day
- cut down on sugary drinks and snacks that contribute to tooth decay
- use mouthwash if advised by your dentist
It's important not to brush your teeth straight after eating or drinking. As the enamel may have been exposed to acid, vigorous brushing could damage the tooth surface.
If you want to remove some staining that's already present, your dentist may recommend a whitening toothpaste. This should only be used once or twice a week as instructed and isn't a replacement for your normal toothpaste.
Have a regular check-up and clean
Regular check-ups let your dentist catch and treat any oral health problems before they cause lasting harm. A professional dental clean can also remove any plaque or calculus that may have built up on your teeth, improving their whiteness and helping to protect against decay.
If you already have stains
If your teeth are stained or discoloured, talk to your dentist to find out what cosmetic treatments they offer to restore or enhance their natural brightness. They'll explain what each treatment involves and any possible complications or side-effects you need to know about, even if the risk is minor, so you can decide if a cosmetic procedure is right for you.
Depending on the type of discolouration you have, these treatments could include:
Teeth bleaching treatments use peroxide-based gels to brighten teeth by a number of shades. Only dentists are permitted to use higher concentrations of gel that often allow professional whitening to be completed in a single session.
If you prefer to whiten your teeth in your own home, this can take 1 to 2 weeks. It's recommended that you use a personalised kit provided by your dentist and follow their guidance to minimise the risks and produce more satisfying results.
Composite or porcelain veneers replace the front surface of teeth to cover up stains and other imperfections. If your tooth discolouration can't be treated by bleaching, veneers could be an option. However, placing veneers is an irreversible procedure, as it involves permanently altering the tooth surface.
If a tooth is discoloured, misshapen or has other irregularities, it could be covered by a custom crown. If you have existing crowns, fillings or other dental restorations that have darkened since they were placed, these can't be treated by teeth bleaching, so they may need to be replaced to match your new smile.
Find out more about teeth whitening in Brisbane
If you want to make changes to your smile, contact Swish Dental today to book a consultation with our dentists in Everton Park and Mitchelton.
Better Health Channel. 10 tips to look after your teeth [Online] 2012 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ten-tips/10-tips-to-look-after-your-teeth
Australian Dental Association. Teeth Whitening: Getting the best result for your smile [Online] 2016 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Teeth-whitening-the-best-result-for-your-smile/Teeth-whitening,-getting-the-best-result-for-your-smile.pdf.aspx
Healthdirect. Veneers [Online] 2018 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/veneers