What is Tooth Discoloration?
Your teeth may become yellow (or another color) due to staining on the surface or changes within the structure of the tooth.
Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration – The enamel of your tooth is as thin as an eggshell. By brushing too hard, you may cause erosion of the enamel. The tooth and enamel may be stained by food and by drinks, such as coffee, tea, wine and cola. Smoking tobacco may also cause yellowing and discoloration.
Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration – The internal structure of the tooth (known as the dentin) may change and darken or take on a yellow tint. This discoloration may occur as a result of:
- Excess exposure to fluoride during early childhood;
- Maternal use of tetracycline antibiotics during pregnancy;
- Personal use of tetracycline antibiotics earlier than age eight;
- Physical trauma that affected the development of tooth enamel;
- Brushing too hard with a standard toothbrush.
Rarely, a child is born with dentinogenesis imperfecta, which causes gray, amber or purple tooth discoloration.
Age-Related Tooth Discoloration – The tooth’s internal structure (dentin) begins to yellow and enamel becomes thinner naturally through aging. Over time, the processes of extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration combine, so that the dentin shows through the enamel, producing the appearance of yellow teeth. Smoking and drinking liquids that stain the teeth exacerbate the discoloration process. Any chips or damage to the teeth can also lead to yellowing teeth through the years, especially if the pulp of the tooth is damaged.
Presentation and Symptoms of Teeth Discoloration
Yellow teeth and discoloration occur in unpredictable ways. Perhaps someone may experience staining on only one tooth where the enamel has been worn down more. Others may experience white streaks to yellow tinting, or brown spots and pits across several teeth. The severity of the tooth discoloration varies.
Discoloration of the teeth does not typically lead to pain or discomfort. In some cases ,when the enamel of the tooth has worn away and the structure of the tooth changes (such as with trauma), a person may experience sensitivity, similar to areas where gums recession exposes the root of the tooth. The sensitivity, pain and discomfort of gum recession are separate symptoms and are not directly related to the discoloration of the teeth.
Treating Discolored Teeth
Before undertaking treatment for yellow or discolored teeth, it’s best to determine why teeth are becoming yellow or discolored. Treatment will be more effective when understood in the context of daily brushing and diet. Many dentists offer professional whitening services to address the extrinsic tooth discoloration caused by coffee or tobacco. Several treatments are available as over the counter products, such as bleaching gels, other types of whitening agents and toothpastes. In some cases, a crown or veneer may be recommended for particularly bad tooth discoloration. It’s best to consult with your dentist to learn which option is the best for your teeth.
Avoiding Tooth Discoloration
Because the natural enamel protecting the tooth is as thin as an eggshell, brushing too hard with a standard toothbrush can erode the surface and make the tooth vulnerable to yellowing and discoloration. The PeriClean ultra-soft specialty toothbrush effectively cleans teeth, without damaging the enamel, helping your teeth to retain their natural white color.