Teeth may darken for a number of reasons, but top on that list are the foods that you eat and your dental hygiene practices. With good hygiene practices, you can still eat them without adversely affecting your teeth in the process.
Tooth discoloration is classified into:
- Extrinsic discoloration – this stains the outer layer, or enamel of your teeth
- Intrinsic discoloration – this occurs when staining goes as deep as the dentin (found under the enamel).
Here’s why your teeth might darken:
- Food and beverages – Some fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes, apples, as well as taking large amounts of tea, coffee, wines and colas will slowly change your teeth color.
- Smoking and tobacco chewing
- Poor oral hygiene – If you don’t regularly brush your teeth or floss to remove plaque and the staining substances in the foods that you eat, your teeth will stain and darken in time.
- Diseases – Oral diseases which attack the enamel and dentin (the uppermost and second uppermost layers of the teeth), as well as treatment regimens for certain diseases can cause darkening. For instance, chemotherapy and radiation around the head and neck areas can lead to teeth discoloration. Also, if an expectant mother suffers certain infections, the fetus’s enamel development may be interfered with, leading to discoloration.
- Medication – Some antibiotics, such as doxycycline and tetracycline can cause tooth discoloration, particularly if given to children below 8 years of age, whose enamels are still developing. Others include mouthwashes with cetylpyridinium chloride or chlorhexidine, anti-psychosis medication, antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl) and anti-hypertension drugs.
- Age – With age, the enamel of your teeth gets worn down, revealing the dentin, which is naturally yellow.
- Heredity and genetics – Some people are born with thicker or brighter enamels.
- Dental treatment regimens – Using amalgam restorations and dental materials containing silver sulphide will give your teeth a grayish-black color.
- Environment –Exposure to excess fluorine, either in drinking water or other applications to the teeth will cause tooth discoloration.
Prevention and management
Tooth discoloration is easily preventable. For instance, cut back on coffee and tea intake and quitting smoking if these are your Achilles’ heel. If you absolutely can’t stop, try cleaning your teeth right after or rinsing with a mouthwash.
Make sure your oral hygiene regimen is strictly followed, brush and floss regularly, and then visit the dentist or dental hygienist for cleaning and plaque removal every six months or so. Should the discoloration persist even after you have adopted good practices, schedule a visit to the dentist to ensure that there aren’t any underlying ailments.