Ninety-nine percent of dentists surveyed by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) reported that appearance is of great concern when it comes to why their patients pick dental procedures. If you're ready for a professional-level whitening, veneers, or another cosmetic fix, chances are it's because you're not entirely happy with the way your smile looks.
Luckily, cosmetic dentistry is here to help. Whether you choose a temporary solution, such as whitening, or a more permanent procedure, you want to prevent a repeat performance. Time and money spent on whitening should mean that you get lasting results that aren't ruined by future staining.
If you want to keep your newly whitened teeth looking celebrity-bright, you should understand the causes of staining, dulling, and darkening so you can maintain your smile. Beyond that, when you know what can ruin that bright white smile, you also know what activities (and foods and beverages) to avoid. Take a look at the ways, why's, and how's of those stains.
Chromogens sound like something super-scientific, but they're fairly easy to understand. Chromogens are compounds that have strong pigments. Pigments in foods and drinks can cause what's considered extrinsic staining. This means that the stain forms from the outside of your teeth.
What are the culprits behind pigment-related extrinsic staining? You probably already know a few. These are the dark, bright, and bold-colored foods and drinks, such as coffee, red wine, blueberries, and dark sauces. Eating a bowl of blueberries one time won't permanently stain your teeth. You may notice some temporary changes, but you can brush the left-behind color away.
When you eat or drink foods or beverages with high pigment levels often, you run the risk of developing permanent stains. For example, if you drink a few cups of coffee each day, you'll start to notice yellow stains developing on your teeth. Likewise, if you drink red wine daily you'll also start seeing some discoloration.
The good news here is that in-office whitening procedures can help to remove these stains. But that doesn't mean they can't come back. Avoiding chromogen-containing foods and drinks, or limiting them, can keep your smile looking whiter for a longer time.
Unlike chromogen-containing foods and drinks, tannins aren't pigment-related stain causers. While foods and drinks that contain tannins can look dark, bold, or bright, the tannins themselves aren't causing the discoloration.
Tannins are plant-based compounds. Instead of causing stains, they assist them, making it easier for stains to stick to your teeth. They often work along with chromogens, allowing the dark pigments to stain your teeth. Drinks such as wine and tea contain tannins. The combination of the tannins with the deep coloring of these beverages makes it easy for those stains to stick to your smile.
Again, in-office whitening products and procedures can reduce the look of tannin-related staining. Avoiding foods and drinks with tannins in the future can prevent stains from sticking to your smile.
Internal Injuries and Medications
Not all stains come from outside, or extrinsic, causes. Some stains can come from internal, or intrinsic, problems. Two of the most common intrinsic stain-causers are injuries and medication.
When a tooth is damaged enough to cause problems with the pulp, a dark or grey color can result. If the blood supply to the tooth is destroyed, or doesn't return after the trauma, the tooth may remain stained. If the injury heals and the tooth regains its normal blood supply, you probably won't have to worry about whitening.
Medications that cause intrinsic staining include some antibiotics, antiseptic mouthwashes (containing chlorhexidine), and chemotherapy that is directed at the head or neck. Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, can cause discoloration during dental development in childhood. You may not even know that you have stains until your adult teeth come in when these antibiotics are at fault.
Do you have dental staining? Consider an in-office whitening procedure from Brian W. Hazen, D.M.D.