White teeth is increasingly becoming a socially important issue for many patients. I would firstly like to comment that unfortunately our perception of normal, healthy, white teeth has been blurred by what we see in the media. The teeth of celebrities, models and other people who appear in the media are often not teeth but porcelain veneers or caps that have been made in an ultrawhite colour. Generally speaking, it is abnormal and unnatural for the colour of your teeth to be whiter than the whites of your eyes.
The colour of your teeth is affected by many factors including what you eat, how you take care of them, medical conditions and medication as well as age.
AGE: With increasing age, it is true that your teeth will appear yellower. The reason for this is that as we age the enamel thickness may be worn down and the inside of the tooth (dentine) becomes thicker and shines through the thinner enamel easily. This gives the appearance of yellower/darker teeth.
DIET: Many foods have the ability to stain teeth (eg. coffee and tea), some people have what is called chromogenic bacteria (bacteria that produce a coloured waste) which can stain teeth in various colours. One of the biggest dietary factors that darken teeth is caused by acid wear. Acid wear will prematurely wear down the enamel layer of teeth and cause the yellower inside of the teeth to shine through.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS: Similarly, conditions that cause vomiting (pregnancy, GORD/reflux, bulimia) can lead to severe acid wear of the teeth due to the low pH of gastric/stomach acids. Not as common these days but we do see some cases of staining of the teeth due to the use of certain types of antibiotics in childhood (tetracycline staining).
HOW YOU TAKE CARE OF THEM: Poor oral health may lead to many situations which can severely discolour your teeth (tooth decay, gum disease, gum recession, abrasion of the gums) can lead to root exposure and darkening of the teeth. Fillings/restorations on the front teeth that are not looked after can discolour with time or stain at the margins.
BEST TIPS FOR NATURALLY WHITER TEETH
1. brush your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste 2 times a day, GENTLY.
2. Floss between your teeth, nightly.
3. avoid acidic beverages (especially between meals) eg. citric juices, wine, soft drink, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavoured mineral water. Use a straw if you must drink these drinks.
BEWARE OF LEMON DETOX DIET and APPLE CIDER VINEGAR SHOTS in diet methods!
4. DO NOT brush your teeth within an hour of consumption of acidic food/drink (drinks as listed above, vinegar, lemon, tomato) or vomiting. Instead, rinse with water or a bicarbonate mouthwash to neutral the pH quickly.
5. Visit your GP to manage any medical conditions that may cause regurgitation of stomach acids into the mouth
6. Visit your dentist regularly to prevent damage to teeth due to decay/gum disease/ poor brushing habits etc
The following natural home remedies to whiten teeth are NOT recommended due to their acidic content
– use of lemon juice +/- salt or bicarb soda to brush teeth
– use of strawberries
The following natural DIY methods have not been proven to help whiten teeth
– use of activated charcoal
– oil pulling.
If you are unhappy with the colour of your teeth, please discuss this with your dentist for advice suited to your particular situation. There are many treatment options that can be used to improve the appearance of your teeth if you are still unhappy with the colour.
Hope this post has been helpful
Dr. Jess BDSc. (The University of Melbourne.) (Honours.)
Oak Tree Ballarat Dental