There are two critical questions to answer when it comes to correcting tooth discoloration. The first is, “Are all my teeth discolored or is it just one or two?” The second is, “Why are my teeth discolored?” Questions rarely asked but the answers are critical to your results.
When only one tooth (or a couple of teeth) are discolored, knowing the cause helps determine the best way to whiten. Discoloration could be from injury (sometimes many years ago) to one tooth or several teeth, root canal treatment or previous dental work that no longer matches (or maybe didn’t match from the beginning). Even single teeth can be successfully whitened when the cause is determined and the appropriate treatment is completed.
When all the teeth are discolored it may simply be from food/drinks, the natural color of the teeth, surface stains (that may be removed with a professional cleaning) or systemic factors like antibiotics (tetracycline being the most notorious) taken during childhood when teeth are developing. Tetracycline staining is less common today since tetracycline is avoided when treating infections in younger children. If an infection does not respond to first-line antibiotics, a test known as a culture and sensitivity may be done to determine the specific antibiotic needed to treat the infection most effectively. If tetracycline is the best antibiotic then it will be used, otherwise, it is avoided in children.
When attempts to whiten teeth with over the counter products are unsuccessful it is usually because the cause of the discoloration or staining is not determined first and the most effective products used. It’s important to know that ONLY enamel will whiten when whitening products are used. Any tooth-colored fillings (composite) or porcelain crowns (caps) will not whiten. If it has been a long time since a professional cleaning has been done there may be surface stains and possibly tartar (also known as calculus) on the teeth. Neither one will respond to any whitening products–over the counter or from a dental professional. The best time to whiten teeth is after a professional cleaning when any tartar and surface stains have been removed.
If you are thinking about whitening your teeth or have tried but were disappointed by the results, it is a good idea to see a dentist. A dentist can tell you why your teeth are discolored and what can be done to achieve the results you desire. A professional cleaning can also be done (you know you’re probably overdue…).
Everyone wants a beautiful, healthy smile. Clean, white teeth are a great way to start!
If you have any questions for our dentist, please give us a call at 714-441-2372 to speak with a member of our caring team. We look forward to addressing your questions and concerns or scheduling an appointment for you to come and visit with our dentist.