The Smart Side of Beautiful

Dealing with Tooth Discoloration

by Nicole C. Bridge
woman with nice teeth in the snow.
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When you place a high premium on a bright smile, dealing with tooth discoloration can be pretty frustrating. You might notice particular stains on the surface of your teeth, or perhaps the entire tooth looks yellow or dingy. Extrinsic staining affects the enamel of your tooth and is often caused by the dark foods and drinks that you consume. Intrinsic staining affects the inside of the tooth and can be caused by a lot of things that happened while your teeth were still developing, like overexposure to fluoride, antibiotic use or trauma to the mouth. Discoloration can also happen if you chip a tooth or just as a normal course in the aging process as surface stains seep down into the tooth. Basically, many factors can change the color of your teeth on the outside and inside.

What Can I Do About Discoloration?

A solid dental hygiene routine is a good start. Brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings will help remove some extrinsic discoloration and there are plenty of whitening toothpastes on the market that are formulated with ingredients to break down surface stains. You could also consider a whitening toothpaste, like Colgate® Optic White® High Impact White®, that contains hydrogen peroxide, an ingredient used in many professional whitening treatments. According to the American Dental Association, peroxide is an ingredient contained in bleaching products, because it helps remove the intrinsic and extrinsic stains that cause yellow, streaked and brown teeth.

If you're looking for a quick fix, professional in-office whitening is the fastest and most effective method of teeth whitening. Your dentist can tell you if you'd be a good candidate and recommend the method and concentration of bleach. Also ask your dentist about a take-home professional whitening kit. The Colgate® Optic White® Professional Take-home Kit involves a system of custom-fit trays and bleaching gel that you can wear on your own time at home for 30 minutes a day for about a week.

How Can I Prevent Further Staining?

The Academy of General Dentistry has a few tips for coffee drinkers:

  • Sip through a straw to minimize exposure to your teeth
  • Rinse with water after finishing your cup
  • Wait a while to brush.

That last recommendation might sound funny, but the surface enamel of your teeth gets softer for several minutes after you've consumed something acidic. Brushing too soon might actually cause some damage to your teeth and result in yellowing. When you do brush, try a powered toothbrush, like a Colgate® 360°® Optic White® Powered Toothbrush, that is engineered with special polishing bristles to remove surface stains to whiten teeth.

Often, discoloration is only a cosmetic issue. Sometimes, however, it can be a symptom of something more serious like tooth decay or a damaged tooth. Talk to your dentist if you aren't sure. Discoloration is frustrating, but you don't have to live with it. Get a plan together to whiten that beautiful smile and feel like yourself again!

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