There are numerous causes of teeth discolouration with the most common causes being staining from bad habits such as smoking, food and drinks, although poor dental hygiene also contributes to staining. In fact, poor dental hygiene very often contributes to more than just staining.
Inadequate brushing and flossing leads to the build-up of plague which in its mildest form, causes yellowing of the teeth. In more severe cases, gum disease and tooth decay is common.
There are a variety of causes that can cast a pall on teeth from yellow to green to grey. Illness, medication and treatments for certain medical conditions such as chemotherapy for instance can cause teeth discolouration. Infants can have less than pearly whites if their mothers were given certain medication whilst pregnant such as antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline, which are known to discolour teeth when given to young children below the age of 8. Mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth, as well as common antihistamines like Benadryl, antipsychotic drugs and medication for high blood pressure.
Yellowing teeth might indicate early signs of fluorosis, a condition caused by excessive exposure (especially ingestion) to fluorine marked by mottling of the teeth and damage to the bones, so if good oral hygiene does not take care of the problem, a visit to the dentist might be in order.
As a person ages, the outer layer of enamel on the teeth is worn away, becoming translucent to reveal the natural yellow colour of the inner layer called dentin. This means people with thicker enamel will generally have brighter and whiter teeth than others, for longer. There is unfortunately nothing much anyone can do about that. That is the reason why many elderly people tend to have yellower looking teeth too.
If teeth stains are caused by food and drinks, reducing the intake of the major offenders is very much in a person’s control. The acids in these food and drinks tend to sit on teeth to thin down the protective layer of enamel over time. So removing sugars and acids soon after eating and drinking will help the teeth’s enamel stay strong.
Not all causes of teeth discolouration are due to bad habits and wear and tear though. Some dental restorative materials like amalgam, used in ‘old-fashioned’ fillings, can give teeth a greyish colour. Trauma sustained from a fall can disturb the formation of enamel in young children. This can cause discolouration of their permanent teeth. Damage from a knock or a fall can also discolour adult teeth.
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