Top Reasons Your Teeth Are Stained

There are plenty of reasons to flash a white, attractive smile. Not only does your smile affect the way people first perceive you, but the act of smiling itself can also affect how you feel. A recent study by a business scholar at Michigan State University found that people in customer service positions who force smiles often end up worsening their mood and productivity, while the opposite was true for employees who smiled as a result of positive thinking.

Smiling, however, isn't as easy as it sounds when yellow, stained teeth embarrass you. So what's causing the yellowing? Several factors may be to blame—some you might not even be aware of.

There are two types of stains: Intrinsic, meaning deep within the tooth, and extrinsic, which are on the surface of the enamel. Most intrinsic stains do not benefit from whitening because bleach cannot penetrate far enough to reach interior stains, but extrinsic stains can be lightened with in-office bleaching treatments.

See the most common causes for teeth stains and how to fix them, so you can restore confidence in your smile.

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Smoking

You should know this by now, but all types of tobacco and smoking, including chewing tobacco, can dull and darken teeth. So stop smoking, and start whitening.


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Dark-colored foods and drinks

The most obvious culprit is also the most common. What we eat and drink puts a constant barrage of stain-inducing particles on our pearly whites. Typically, the darker the pigment in the food (think berries and tomatoes) or drink (red wine, coffee, tea and soda), the more likely it is to stain the teeth. Bleaching effectively removes these stains.


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Your skin tone

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, skin tone and teeth are inversely related. Meaning the lighter skin you have, the more likely you are to have darker teeth, and, inversely, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to have lighter teeth. The study was based on actual teeth shade measurements, not the perception of contrast.

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Braces

Immediately after removing braces, there can be a difference in color between where the tooth was bonded and the part that was exposed to staining from foods and drinks. And, if not removed properly, braces can leave behind white spots on the teeth. “Sometimes they don’t get every bit of bonding cement, and that can cause discoloration,” says New York cosmetic dentist Steven E. Roth, DMD. “Also, sometimes, the enamel, because the patient didn't keep their teeth clean like they were supposed to, will have decay, and that will look like discoloration.” Bleaching and at-home treatments can help even out discolorations.

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Poor dental hygiene

“Taking good care of your teeth and gums decreases the amount of disease-causing bacteria present in your mouth,” says Chesterton, IN, cosmetic dentist Jim Arnold, DDS. “This bacteria, when not kept in check, will likely cause dental decay, periodontal (gum) disease and bad breath, and will tend to cause teeth to darken.”


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Aging

As we age, the teeth go through a natural process of erosion, mainly caused by eating. That thinning of the enamel and loss of surface texture leads to translucency, revealing the dentin, or porous yellow tissue underneath the enamel. “It’s like the difference between polished glass and rough glass. The smoother the surface, the easier it is to see through,” says Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Laurence Rifkin, DDS. “Younger teeth have more surface texture and roughness, which reflects more light, making them more opaque and brighter.”

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Water 

Known as hyper-fluorosis, high concentrations of fluoride in water sources, while not harmful to the body, will be absorbed by teeth during enamel and dentin (the tissue beneath the enamel) formation. The result is an uneven mixture of colors from white to yellow and brown on the teeth. This type of stain is often resistant to whitening treatments and requires other means of correction such as bonding or veneers.

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