Teeth don't have to lose their natural whiteness as you age. While some tooth discolouration is genetic, most stains can be prevented by being careful about what you eat and drink and keeping up a good oral hygiene routine.
Read these 7 tips from our Gold Coast dentists to help your teeth stay white for life or help a teeth whitening treatment to last for longer.
Your diet isn't only important for your health. It can also be a direct cause of teeth stains, if you regularly consume food and drink with strong colour pigments. These pigments are created by chromogens – small compounds that add rich or vibrant hues to food and beverages, which can also attach to tooth enamel.
Some of the worst offenders for teeth stains include (but are not limited to):
It's easy enough to tell whether food or drink could stain your teeth. If it would leave stains on a white tablecloth or clothing, it can discolour white tooth enamel.
Food and drink that's high in sugar or acids should also be avoided, as these contribute to tooth decay and can wear down the enamel. This exposes the softer dentin layer beneath, which is yellow in colour and less resistant to stains.
If you don't want to sacrifice your morning coffee or other favourite food and drink, try to reduce contact of the food or liquid with the front of your teeth.
Drinking with a straw, swallowing liquids quickly rather than holding them in your mouth and rinsing your mouth with water can all make stains less likely to form. Making your tea and coffee less strong and adding milk can also reduce discolouration.
Yellow teeth aren't always caused by food and drink stains. Plaque that builds up on teeth and hardens into tartar (calculus) is also yellow in colour and accumulates stains faster than teeth. Bacteria in plaque can also erode white tooth enamel to expose the yellow dentine layer beneath.
The best way to lower your risk of dental problems and discolouration at the same time is to follow a good oral hygiene routine every day. For most people, this means:
As well as preventing plaque from building up, brushing can also help to reduce or remove surface stains, but it's important to wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking before you brush. Brushing while acids are still present on the teeth may spread the acidity around your mouth and can risk damaging the enamel.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is recommended for hydration, neutralising acids in the mouth and rinsing leftover sugars off the teeth, but it can also help to remove some strong-coloured food and liquids from tooth surfaces before stains have a chance to form.
The sooner you rinse your mouth after a staining food or beverage, the less likely it will be to leave stains. Try sipping water after every bite or alternating sips of coffee, cola or red wine with a glass of water.
If your local water supply contains fluoride, this also helps to protect teeth against plaque, further lowering your risk of tooth decay and discolouration.
Need another reason to kick the habit? Nicotine and tar in tobacco smoke can also stain teeth. These stains tend to be more pronounced in heavy smokers.
Cutting down or quitting smoking doesn't only improve the appearance of your teeth, but also your oral health. That's because tobacco use is one of the single greatest risk factors for a wide range of conditions, including gum disease and oral cancer. It can also slow healing times and increase the risk of complications following dental procedures.
Regular check-ups and teeth cleaning are another vital part of preventive dental care.
A comprehensive examination once or twice a year lowers your risk of tooth decay and other problems, as there's more chance of your dentist catching a problem before it gets serious.
Professional teeth cleaning and scaling from a dental hygienist can remove more surface stains than brushing alone, as well as removing yellow plaque from your teeth.
If your teeth have deeper stains, your dentist may offer cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening or veneers to improve their whiteness. If you have old fillings, crowns or other dental restorations that have discoloured, these can be replaced at the same time to complete your smile makeover.
If you've already had a whitening treatment, at home or from your dentist, you can help your white smile to last for longer with occasional touch ups. Your dentist may provide you with a home whitening kit or whitening toothpaste and advise you how often to use these to help maintain your smile.
How often your smile needs to be touched up depends on how well you avoid stains using the other tips above. If you don't smoke and avoid common sources of stains, you may only need a repeat treatment every year or two, supplemented with a whitening toothpaste once or twice a week.
If your teeth still have stains or discolouration after professional cleaning and scaling, you can ask your dentist what cosmetic dentistry treatments they offer to whiten your smile.
The treatments your dentist recommends will depend on what type of staining or discolouration you have, your price range and other considerations. The most common whitening treatments are:
Dentists require that you have healthy teeth and gums before beginning a cosmetic treatment, so any existing issues such as tooth decay or gum disease should be treated as a priority. They'll also make sure you are fully informed about any possible risks before you agree to a cosmetic procedure.
Teeth whitening provided by a qualified and experienced dentist offers faster and more reliable results than home treatments.
The teeth whitening procedure involves applying whitening gel to your teeth in layers. Bleaching agents in the gel are activated with a laser or UV light. Depending on the level of whitening you want, these treatments can sometimes fit into a lunch hour.
Dentists are the only professionals who are licensed to use high concentrations of bleaching agents on teeth. Whitening services from beauticians, salons and other businesses can risk damaging your teeth and gums and leaving you with uneven results.
Results from professional teeth whitening will be visible right away. Some people find that their teeth feel more sensitive after teeth whitening. This is usually only temporary and your dentist may be able to provide products to help during your recovery.
If you prefer to whiten your teeth at home, your dentist can provide you with a personalised home whitening kit. This includes custom-fitted trays to wear over your teeth and whitening gel at the concentration you need. They'll instruct you about how and when to use the kit to get your desired results.
Home teeth whitening usually takes around 1 to 2 weeks with regular treatments. A customised home whitening treatment avoids some of the risks associated with over-the-counter whitening treatments, such as disappointing results and chemical burns if bleaching gel touches the gums and other soft tissues.
Not all tooth discolouration can be treated by whitening. If your teeth have deeper stains, or you want to make other changes to their size, shape or appearance, you may be a candidate for dental veneers.
Veneers are thin laminates of porcelain that are bonded to the teeth or composite resin built up on teeth. These change the appearance of teeth instantly, though they usually need to be replaced after a number of years and they can be prone to staining just like tooth enamel.
Your dentist can discuss the pros and cons of porcelain veneers vs. composite veneers and other treatments so you can decide what's best for you.
If you only want to change the appearance of one or several teeth, a dental crown can be a stronger alternative to a veneer. Porcelain crowns can be matched to the colour of your other teeth or a whiter shade to help balance your smile.
If you have existing crowns, veneers, fillings or other restorations, keep in mind that these won't be affected by teeth whitening treatments and may need to be replaced.
Do you want to talk to a dentist about teeth whitening or other cosmetic treatments to enhance your smile?
Call our friendly team at Robina Town Dental on 07 5575 9100 to book a consultation with a Gold Coast dentist and find out all the information you need to make a fully informed decision. You can also book online.
Australian Dental Association. Teeth Whitening: Getting the best result for your smile [Online] 2016 [Accessed February 2021] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Teeth-whitening-the-best-result-for-your-smile/Teeth-whitening,-getting-the-best-result-for-your-smile.pdf.aspx
Better Health Channel. Cosmetic dentistry [Online] 2018 [Accessed February 2021] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cosmetic-dentistry