Cooler weather finds us looking for ways to warm up from the inside out with coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and even wine tend to be the go-to choices during the winter months. It may also find us in need of teeth whitening. Because we see ourselves so often, it may come as a shock when you realize your favorite beverages were not so kind to your teeth. Some people quickly realize the cause of their staining, but, for others, food and drinks may not be the culprit.
At Madison Dental Health Partners, we figure out what’s causing the discoloration and provide solutions to help brighten your smile.
All Stains Are Not Created Equal
Extrinsic stains are considered surface stains since they affect the enamel. Enamel is the outermost part of the tooth charged with protecting the sensitive inner tissues. Although enamel is a hard substance, it does absorb pigments left behind by food and drinks like soda, coffee, tea, red wine, berries, and tomato-based sauces. The tar found in cigarette smoke also causes extrinsic stains.
Intrinsic stains involve the dentin, or inner layer, of the tooth. Dentin is naturally darker than enamel, so as the enamel wears down, it is common to notice the darker color underneath. People taking certain medications, such as antihistamines, high blood pressure drugs, or antipsychotic drugs may experience intrinsic staining. Poor mouth health, physical trauma, or regular use of the antibiotic tetracycline also darken the dentin. During enamel formation, excess fluoride exposure may also cause intrinsic staining.
Age-related discoloration comes whether you are ready or not, and no amount of cleaning and whitening can undo the effects of time. Wear and tear over the years causes the enamel to thin, and the dentin to darken gradually. Madison Dental Health Partners wants you to know that there are options available to restore your smile to its former glory.
How Can I Get My Smile Back?
Not to be confused with over-the-counter options, prescription strength take-home kits are as effective as in-office whitening if you are willing to wait a little longer for results (2-4 weeks). Custom plastic trays are made from impressions of your teeth. A special whitening gel goes in the trays, which are usually left on for about an hour at a time during the course of treatment.
In-office whitening gives the most dramatic results in the least amount of time (about an hour). Because the whitening gel is more concentrated, gums and exposed roots are covered during treatment to prevent irritation. A retractor helps protect the lips and cheeks as the professional strength hydrogen peroxide gel goes to work. Some new treatments incorporate a special light or laser to make the process faster.
What if I am Not a Candidate for Teeth Whitening?
Bleaching may not be a treatment option for certain intrinsic stains or age-related discoloration. If your dentist feels teeth whitening would do more harm than good, never fear, you have other options.
Dental bonding is the least invasive but may need to be repeated in time. A tooth-colored resin is brushed on the surface of visible teeth and provides immediate results. Veneers require a small amount of enamel to be removed from the front surface of visible teeth. A wafer-thin porcelain shell is permanently bonded to the teeth’s surface. Crowns are generally reserved for severe discoloration or damage. A significant amount of the natural tooth structure is removed, and the remaining tooth is fitted with a tooth-colored crown.