Our teeth constitute an under-rated yet crucial part of our overall appeal. A radiant smile opens doors and makes people more welcoming towards us. Studies show that our teeth act as symbols of social advantage (or disadvantage). However, what constitutes ‘natural’ tooth colour spans a fairly wide range.
Therefore, while tooth discoloration and enamel stains are often cause for social anxiety and loss of confidence, it's important to know that not all healthy teeth are the brightest shade of white. Our teeth develop natural stains over time due to a myriad of reasons including eating habits, medication and good ol’ genetics.
To address these issues, let’s first take a quick look at a few of the underlying causes that can lead to tooth discolouration and staining:
- Dietary habits: Certain foods can result in more significant staining over time than others. For instance, your black coffee may contribute more to staining your teeth than coffee with milk or creamer. Beverages like wine and colas as well as the abundance of masalas found in Indian food might lead to more rapid staining of the enamel.
- Tobacco: Smoking cigarettes or bidis or chewing tobacco can all result in yellowing of teeth.
- Medication: Antibiotics tetracycline, doxycycline can affect enamel formation in children. Other medications such antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs and antihypertensive medications can cause tooth discoloration.
- Poor dental hygiene: Ineffective or irregular brushing, not rinsing after meals and never flossing can lead to severe plaque build-up.
- Treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy as well as certain mouthwash ingredients such as CHX and CPC can cause discoloration as well.
- Ageing & genetics: The natural ageing process causes degradation of the outer whiter enamel which leads to exposure of the inner yellow enamel. Sometimes, whiter teeth just run in the family!
Other causes could include infections during pregnancy, elevated water fluoride levels and injury-related traumas resulting in lower blood flow to certain teeth.
In western countries, where markets for teeth whitening are significantly larger, consumers have two alternatives:
- A professional whitening procedure: Performed by dentists, these involve the use of high concentration peroxide-based solutions in a professional setting. While they are the most effective and safe, they can also be expensive and time consuming.
- At-home whitening products: OTC teeth whitening solutions are peroxide-based formulas with lower concentrations of the bleaching agent. While these products are effective, using them too frequently or leaving the solution on the enamel for too long can result in sensitivity.
In India, fewer dentists offer purely cosmetic procedures. At-home whitening solutions are limited due to the regulation of peroxide in OTC products. As a result, some of the following home remedies are often used in lieu:
- Oil pulling: While swishing coconut oil around in your mouth is known to reduce bacteria & gingivitis, there is no scientific evidence to prove that oil pulling whitens your teeth.
- Activated charcoal: Brushing with powdered charcoal supposedly pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains from teeth, though research shows this is simply not true
- Apple cider vinegar: Not only does ACV not whiten your teeth, but evidence suggests that its acidic pH can damage outer layers of the enamel making the surface porous and vulnerable to decay.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help scrub away surface stains on teeth, but is not effective at whitening your teeth. With persistent long-term use, it may ultimately have detrimental effects on one’s enamel, gums and taste buds.
As is the case with nearly everything health related, prevention happens to be far better than the cure with teeth whitening as well. Preventing tooth stains before they actually happen can involve lifestyle changes such as:
- Limiting the amount of high-stain foods (eg: black coffee, wine, colas etc.) one consumes. Moderating your sugar intake can also be helpful.
- Cessation of smoking and chewing tobacco.
- And finally, good oral care goes a long way. Brushing and flossing can help limit plaque build-up, which is the biggest perpetrator of tooth decay & discolouration.
It is helpful to remember that our teeth naturally turn yellow as we age and that beautiful smiles span a range of shades. If you still think that you might want whiter teeth, we recommend you visit a dentist to get your pearlies professionally whitened.
Between treatments, Daybreak recommends brushing twice a day with the Daybreak Brighten Toothpaste. It contains everything you need. Our functionalized mineral technology, with Calcium Hydroxyapatite is proven to repair your enamel effectively. We have complemented this with papaya & pineapple extracts (known as papain and bromelain) to naturally rid your teeth of stains.
All the information in this blog was reviewed by Dr. Raghu T. Narayan (BDS, MDS). Dr. Raghu is a professor in the Department of Conservative Dentistry & Endodontics. He has offered his expertise as a clinical research adviser in the development of several preventive oral care products since 2003. He has also served as a lifetime member of the IDA, the Indian Endodontic Society, and as a fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. Dr. Raghu is also a senior advisor to Daybreak!