We all know that a smile is one of the first things we notice about a person. According to one study, it's the second most important attraction quality (after personality) and ranks higher in significance than face, body shape, height, eyes and hair. Yet still, nearly half the population is dissatisfied with their smile and one of the leading offenders for this dissatisfaction is tooth discoloration and staining.
The truth of the matter is that staining your teeth is actually pretty easy to do. When it comes to foods and drinks, if a spill is going to leave a stain on your furniture, it's most likely also going to leave its mark on your teeth. Poor dental hygiene, tobacco use, age, disease, medication and genetics are also frequent causes. Just because discolored teeth are common doesn't mean there are no options to address this problem. The first step to brighter smile is to identify the type of staining and the most likely cause, then visit your dentist and discuss the best options for stain removal and whitening.
The two main types of tooth stains are extrinsic and intrinsic. Intrinsic staining originates from the inner layers of the tooth, either from the pulp or dentin. Common causes of this type staining are tooth trauma, fluorosis, or certain types of antibiotics. Extrinsic staining means that the discoloration is on the surface of the tooth, in the enamel or exterior of the tooth body. Usually, an extrinsic stain is due to some habit like not brushing or flossing, eating/drinking dark foods and beverages, using tobacco products, etc.
One of the most noticeable and unsightly stains on teeth are dark or black stains. Against white tooth color, it is a particularly noticeable and despised type of tooth discoloration. Black staining can appear on your pearly whites for several reasons, some of which include:
- Iron supplements: Iron supplements, commonly prescribed in liquid form to toddlers and young children can cause black tooth and gum staining. These stains are superficial and can be removed by a dentist, but may reappear quickly if the child continues to take the supplement. To minimize tooth discoloration for children or adults taking liquid iron, mix it with juice or water to dilute and/or drink it through a straw to prevent contact with teeth. If it is administered via a dropper, put the drops toward the back of the tongue.
- Chlorohexadine mouthwash: Chlorohexadine is a common prescription mouthwash used to treat and combat gum disease. Its strong antimicrobial properties are especially good at preventing bacteria after a deep clean like scaling and root planing. It is usually not a long term part of an oral hygiene routine. While there are many benefits of using this mouthrinse, it has also been shown to cause dark staining on teeth. So, in general, it’s recommended to not eat too many staining foods or consume large amounts of dark beverages like coffee, tea or red wine while you are using chlorohexadine as it may compound the darkening effect on your teeth.
- Smoking: Black stained teeth are a common side effect of using tobacco. Tobacco penetrates the pits and grooves of the enamel of your teeth. The longer you smoke, the deeper and more engrained this staining becomes.
- Diet Choices: A diet full of staining foods and beverages can also contribute to black and dark staining of your teeth. According to WebMD, some of the worst offending eats and drinks are: wine, tea, cola, dark sauces (like soy, curry, marinara), and berries. Tricks to minimize discoloration from these sources include drinking out of straw, drinking or swishing with water after consuming and swallowing quickly. The longer staining substances come in contact with your teeth, the greater their likelihood to leave their mark.
Though tooth discoloration is mainly a cosmetic issue, it can certainly have effects on how you feel about your smile, your confidence levels and how comfortable you feel around other people. If stained teeth are negatively impacting your life, talk to your dentist about potential contributors to the problem and the at home and in office treatment options that are available. Achieving a whiter, brighter smile might just be easier than you think!