Did you know that healthy-looking white teeth can boost your social confidence? It’s true; a bright smile can enhance your self-image and make you more attractive in social and professional settings. On the other hand, many people with discoloured teeth tend to hide their smiles, making them appear unapproachable or shy.
Luckily, you don’t have to shy away from smiling due to stained teeth. There are a number of proven ways to restore discoloured or stained teeth to their former brilliant glory. But before we get to those solutions, it’s important to understand what causes tooth staining and discolouration in the first place. The type of stain determines the best teeth whitening treatment.
Types of tooth stains
Dental professionals group tooth decorations and stains into three main categories based on their causes:
Extrinsic stains are caused by external agents that come in contact with teeth. Such stains mostly occur when pigment or staining particles from ingested material accumulate on the thin protein layer covering the tooth enamel. Certain foods and drinks such as red wine, coffee, berries, cola and artificial food colours are known to cause extrinsic tooth staining. Tobacco use and poor dental hygiene can also result in stained teeth.
Intrinsic stains occur below the surface of the tooth, deep inside the enamel or the dentine. Some deep stains are more than cosmetic in nature and point to a bigger underlying problem. In most cases, intrinsic stains are caused by overexposure to fluoride, some medications such as tetracycline antibiotics, diseases, dental trauma, genetics and tooth decay.
Teeth naturally degrade and discolour with age as the outer layer of the enamel wears away. Ageing also combines the long-term effects of both extrinsic and intrinsic tooth staining factors.
How to get rid of tooth stains
Some tooth stains are notoriously difficult to clear, while others easily go away in just a few weeks, depending on the whitening treatment. Here are three ways to whiten stained teeth:
There several DIY teeth whitening remedies, but the most common one involves baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Brushing your teeth every few days using a paste made of one part baking soda and two parts hydrogen peroxide can whiten stained teeth.
The science behind this method is pretty simple, a chemical reaction between the calcium in teeth and the baking soda mixture can reduce acid-based extrinsic stains. Although various studies support the use of Sodium bicarbonate-based toothpastes and dentifrices in combating stains and plaque, brushing your teeth with baking soda may not necessarily yield the desired results and may even be unsafe. The alkaline paste causes a mild abrasion on the enamel, potentially increasing tooth sensitivity and accelerating wear.
Off-the-shelf teeth whiteners
Pharmacies are awash with hundreds of teeth whitening kits and products that promise sparkling white teeth in days. They mostly include special abrasive toothpastes, whitening strips, gels and LED trays. Whether such teeth whiteners actually work depends on who you ask. The results may vary between individuals due to differences in types of stains and brand qualities.
Professional dental solutions
It’s best to consult a dental expert instead of rolling the dice with DIY or off-the-shelf whitening solutions. A professional dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth to determine the type of stain and the most suitable remedy.
For extrinsic stains, a safe bleaching gel activated by special dental light may be used to lighten the teeth’s shade. In most cases, extrinsic teeth whitening does not require any invasive dental procedures apart from maybe moulding the strays to your dental impression. Teeth whitening usually takes a few sessions depending on the desired results and can be done at the dentist’s office or even at home.
For deep intrinsic stains and discolouration, the dentist might recommend more extensive dental treatments, such as placing porcelain veneers or lumineers, crown restoration or dental bonding.
While some people achieve beautiful pearly-white smiles using home remedies and over-the-counter whiteners, there are still many risks associated with unproven teeth whitening remedies. The last thing you want is to worsen the situation by damaging the delicate enamels or gums. Consult with a dental professional to work out the easiest and safest way to brighten your smile.