Why do teeth get discoloured?
There are many reasons why teeth can become discoloured. These can include tea, coffee, red wine and other foods and drink with strong colours. Another major cause is smoking, which can make the teeth yellow.
As you grow older your teeth can become darker naturally. Tooth decay, fillings and tartar build-up can also contribute to discolouration.
Some types of discolouration can be caused by medicines. For example, a type of antibiotic called tetracycline may leave teeth with a yellow or greenish tinge.
There are some simple ways to improve the appearance of discoloured teeth:
- A visit your hygienist to have your teeth scaled and polished. This involves removing any tartar that has built up.
- Regular brushing, stopping smoking and cutting down on strongly coloured food and drink will help reduce staining.
- Whitening toothpastes are slightly abrasive, which may help to remove surface staining. However, they do not alter the natural shade of your teeth.
- Your dentist can also give you advice about replacing your metal fillings and crowns with tooth-coloured ones.
Professional teeth whitening
There are several different ways that dentists can whiten your teeth depending on the results we wish to achieve.
The colour of the teeth is lightened by placing a whitening gel on the outer (external) surfaces of the teeth, using whitening gels in this way may not work for certain types of discolouration, such as that caused by metal fillings. Your dentist will make rubber mouth trays that fit over your teeth precisely, and will give you tubes of whitening gel with instructions on how to put the gel in the mouth trays. You will need to wear the mouth trays through the night. It may take a few weeks to achieve the colour that you want. Your dentist will give you detailed instructions.
There are three ways to do external whitening:
- “Home” whitening – Your dentist makes rubber mouth trays that fit your teeth precisely, and will give you tubes of bleaching gel with instructions on how to put the gel in the mouth trays. You will need to wear the mouth trays through the night. It may take a few weeks to achieve the colour that you want. Your dentist will give you detailed instructions.
- In surgery -“power” or “laser” whitening. Your dentist may put a rubber seal around your teeth to protect your gums depending on concentration of whitening agent used. Then, the whitening gel is placed on your teeth and a special, bright light is used. This light enhances the whitening process. The appointment may take between one to two hours.
- Combined whitening – both the home and surgery whitening are used in combination to obtain the desired result. The home whitening stage may occur before or after surgery treatment – this depends on the type of product used.
How long will the whitening last?
The whitening effects of different methods can last for a few years, but this varies from person to person. Your eating, drinking, smoking and brushing habits may have an effect on how long the treatment lasts.
It’s important to bear in mind that whitening doesn’t always result in the whiteness that you expect. The results vary from person to person and depend on the shade of your teeth before whitening. For this reason, it’s important to discuss all the possible options for improving the appearance of your teeth with your dentist before you decide on treatment.
There are some instances when a dentist may recommend that you don’t have whitening. For example, if you have tooth decay, this should be treated before starting any whitening treatments. Similarly, your gums should be healthy, so if you have any gum disease this should be treated.
If your teeth are extremely sensitive to hot and cold food or drinks, whitening may not be recommended.
Some types of staining (eg tetracycline antibiotic staining) doesn’t respond as well to whitening as others. Whitening, if successful, may take longer on tetracycline stained teeth.
Whitening won’t work on false teeth, crowns, veneers or fillings (including tooth coloured fillings). Instead, your dentist may be able to replace these with lighter ones.
Whitening isn’t recommended for children whose teeth are still developing or for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Deciding on treatment
Side-effects of whitening include temporary sensitivity of the teeth to hot and cold, tender gums and white patches on the gums. These side-effects should disappear after a few days. Contact your dentist if the symptoms persist.
Getting started is as simple as booking an appointment with your dental whitening expert at Bourne & Coningsby Dental Practice where our tooth whitening experts are waiting to help you achieve your perfect smile.
For information about the cost of whitening please see our fees page.