Rye Smiles for Life
10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030
Did you know that the color of a healthy tooth can range anywhere from a light yellow to a light grey? The exact color depends on the color of the enamel as well as the color of the dentin underneath. Dentin is naturally yellow, and tooth enamel is slightly blue and translucent. Factors that affect either of these can cause your teeth to appear discolored. In some cases, tooth staining is merely a cosmetic concern. In other cases, it can be a sign of a serious oral health issue. If you are concerned about the color of your teeth, call today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental professionals.
There are three basic types of tooth discoloration. Many people experience stained teeth as the result of the aging process. As we get older, the tooth enamel becomes thinner, which reveals the yellow dentin underneath. Extrinsic factors, such as tobacco use, the foods and beverages that we consume, and poor oral hygiene, can cause the teeth to appear yellow and dingy. Stained teeth can also be caused by intrinsic factors affecting the internal structure of the tooth, such as certain medications or diseases, excessive fluoride exposure, dental trauma, or genetic disorders.
The most common causes of black stains on teeth include damage to the enamel caused by decay and excessive tartar buildup. Black stains can also be caused by caffeine and other foods and drinks, liquid iron supplements and other medications, tobacco, dental restorations containing silver sulfide, and certain mouthwashes and rinses.
The most common causes of brown stains on teeth include smoking and the frequent consumption of coffee and sodas containing caramel coloring. While over-the-counter whitening products may provide some improvement, professional teeth whitening treatments provide the most dramatic results. Unlike over-the-counter treatments that can fade within a few days or weeks, professional whitening treatments can last for years. Of course, the results can fade quickly if you continue to smoke or consume foods and drinks that are prone to causing staining. Intrinsic brown spots can also occur when certain medications, such as tetracycline, are taken during pregnancy or during early childhood. They can also occur following excessive exposure to fluoride.
Small white spots or frosted areas on the surface of the teeth often indicate early tooth decay. The etched, matte appearance is caused by tooth enamel demineralization that occurs when acids in plaque and the foods and beverages that you consume gradually dissolve the tooth enamel. Not only do these rough areas on the surface of the teeth collect plaque easily to create cavities, but they also collect stains from the food and drinks that you consume. White spots can also be caused by excessive fluoride exposure during tooth development.
Dental trauma is the most common cause of a grey tooth. Similar to your knee turning black and blue after a fall, your teeth can also become discolored following an injury. A tooth turning grey following an injury is a sign that the tooth is not receiving adequate blood flow. In some cases, the tooth will heal itself; however, it is common for the tooth to remain discolored or even die. Depending on the type of damage, treatment may involve a root canal to remove the dead tissue and bleaching or cosmetic restorations to improve the color of the tooth.
A bruised tooth occurs when the connective tissues that support the tooth become irritated and inflamed. Unlike the generalized pain typically associated with an infection, the pain associated with a bruised tooth is often sharp and localized to a specific tooth. This can be caused by teeth clenching or grinding, infections, dental procedures, biting on hard foods, or trauma. Symptoms of a bruised tooth include lingering soreness, bleeding gums, redness, sensitivity, and inflammation. If you experience any type of lingering tooth pain, you should consult a dentist as soon as possible.
Bruised tooth treatment typically involves resting the affected tooth. This may include eating soft foods until the pain subsides or using a mouthguard to prevent teeth clenching or grinding. Continuing to strain the affected tooth by chewing may worsen the pain. Your dentist may also recommend using over-the-counter medications to ease the pain and inflammation.
Dental trauma refers to any injury to the teeth, gums, and surrounding tissue. These types of injuries often occur during falls, sporting activities, motor vehicle accidents, or during physical altercations. Any injury that affects the integrity of the tooth or the surrounding tissue can cause the tooth to become discolored. Common types of dental injuries include:
The best way to prevent a discolored tooth caused by trauma is to take appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet or mouthguard when engaging in high-risk activities. If you experience a facial injury, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. Even if a tooth is knocked out, it may be possible to save it if you seek treatment right away.
Some, but not all, patients experience tooth staining or discoloration after root canal treatment. There are several reasons why this might occur:
The most common treatments for this type of discoloration include internal bleaching, crowns, and veneers.
The best treatment for discolored teeth depends on the underlying cause of the discoloration. Stains that penetrate deep into the tooth or that are caused by decay may require fillings, crowns, veneers, or other types of restorative procedures to improve the health and appearance of the teeth. Minor stains can often be treated with professional whitening treatments.
Of course, your best option is to prevent the discoloration in the first place. A few simple lifestyle changes can help you keep your teeth as white as possible:
If your smile is marred by one or more discolored teeth, we can help. Our exceptional dentists can determine the underlying cause of the discoloration and recommend the appropriate treatments. Call us today at (703) 565-2503 or book an appointment online.
An article by Dr. Gordon Rye.