When you think about stained teeth, you probably picture that stereotypical image of a cranky old man chewing tobacco. However, there are many different ways to stain teeth. Some children have naturally discoloured teeth from drinking water with too much fluorine when they were little. Others get temporary stains from their favourite candy or soda.
- One type is an enamel stain, caused by a coloured substance on the top of the teeth. Surface stains can be removed by whitening procedures. The second type is a dentine stain, on the inner layer of the tooth. It becomes visible when the enamel wears off, and this kind of stain can’t be whitened. It requires veneers. Enamel stains are made by three main agents. The first type, chromogens, are found in coloured foods like candy, soda, hot beverages, and so on. They are sticky substances and they cling to the surface of the tooth, so they can be removed by wearing away the coloured surface in controlled professional conditions.
- The second type is tannin. It’s not a coloured substance on its own, but it works on the surface of your teeth, making it easier for stains and colour to stick to the tooth. The third worrisome product is acid. Some of it comes from the food itself, while other acids are formed by bacterial reactions inside your mouth. Acids are – by nature – corrosive. They erode the tooth surface creating cracks and crevices where coloured food can lodge itself, making your tooth stains even worse. Even when they don’t break the surface of the tooth, these acids make your enamel rougher and softer, and this makes it easier for colouring agents to stick to the tooth.
- Two of the most common beverages in the world are tea and coffee. They are both dark drinks with a lot of chromogens, and they have many different serving options, from mocha to iced tea. Tea actually has more staining power than coffee, because it has more tannins. The more cups you drink per day, the more discolouration your teeth will accumulate. If you’re too attached to you tea or coffee habits, at least consider cutting down to one cup a day. This has the added advantage of reducing your intake of milk and sugar, which may also have unrelated adverse effects on your health.
- The next colour culprit is usually consumed at room temperature, though it’s sometimes chilled. Red wine has the trifecta of tooth staining. It has massive chromogens that give it that deep, rich, burgundy shade. It contains natural tannins that fuse the purples and maroons to your teeth. And it’s full of natural acid, making teeth rougher and more adhesive.Unfortunately, this problem won’t be solved by changing the colour of your wine. White wine has no dark pigment, but it still has acid and tanins. These work together to make your teeth vulnerable to other food agents, including bright berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or even tomatoes. If it can stain your shirt, it will stain your teeth.
- When we’re shopping for artificially coloured food, we gravitate towards the brightly coloured ones, because something in our brains tells us bright food is fresher and better tasting. These loud tones are achieved using strong food dyes, and those dyes frequently remain on the surface of your teeth, lips, and tongue.
- Fizzy drinks are a problem as well. They have acids that soften your enamel and chromogens that seep onto those roughened teeth. Dark drinks do more staining, but light coloured drinks like lemonade still scrape your teeth, making them susceptible to colouring agents.
- It may be hard to drop any of these foods cold turkey, and it’ll be even harder if you have to quit them all at the same time. You can reduce your chances of staining by brushing your teeth immediately after you eat or drink a known staining agent. If you can’t get to your toothbrush, swish clean water in your mouth to absorb some of the colour.
- Another simple fix is to use a straw to consume coloured beverages. The straw lets you enjoy your favourite drink without the liquid actually touching your teeth. It’s pulled to the middle of the tongue and right down your throat, which minimises exposure to the staining agents.
- Visiting your doctor for frequent professional cleaning and a professionally applied teeth-whitening is a big help too. It gives your teeth a nice sheen which is harder for stains to stick to. It also smoothens some of the rough texture created by food acids. The smoother your teeth are, the harder it is for colour to grip.