Teeth whitening has become commonplace in the dental industry and for good reason. When a patient is able to whiten their teeth even two to three shades whiter, it can greatly improve their confidence levels and restore their natural white smile. However, there are some patients that may attempt to have their teeth whitened, either professionally or with at-home kits, and never see the results they expect. Depending on the cause of your tooth discoloration, the process may be unsuccessful. There are some cases when teeth whitening may not be the best choice.
Primary Causes of Tooth Stains and Discoloration
Determining the root cause of tooth discoloration is the best way to determine whether or not teeth whitening will be the best choice for you. In some cases, action can be taken to reverse the discoloration and in other cases it may be beyond your control. Here are some common reasons your teeth may be discolored:
Poor Oral Hygiene: Aside from food and drink choices, poor oral hygiene is the second most common cause of yellowing teeth. Failure to brush and floss on a regular basis will lead to plaque build-up on the teeth, which will eventually lead to staining.
Disease: In some cases, tooth discoloration is caused by a certain illness or disease. There are certain medical conditions that affect tooth enamel and dentin in a negative way. Tooth color can also be affected by certain medical treatments as well. Radiation and chemotherapy, for example, can cause discoloration. Infants can experience tooth discoloration if their mother suffers from an infection during her pregnancy.
Medication: Certain medications, especially antibiotics, can discolor teeth. Doxycycline and tetracycline are the two most common medications that have been known to cause this issue. Antihistamines, blood pressure medication and antipsychotic drugs can also lead to tooth stains.
Aging: Over time, the enamel on your teeth naturally starts to wear away from constant use and grinding. Once the enamel starts to wear away, the underlying layer begins to show through, which is a natural yellow color.
Foods and Drinks: For many people, the foods and drinks they consume contribute to the yellowing of their teeth. Coffee, tea, red wine and soft drinks are the biggest culprits. Beets, curried foods and tomato sauce can also contribute to tooth discoloration.
Genetics: Genetics can also play a role in the color of your teeth. There are some people that are born with naturally lighter shades of enamel or a thicker layer of enamel, while others have a naturally darker shade.
Trauma: Incidents that cause trauma to the nerve tissue can result in tooth discoloration. An accident, fall or root canal can all cause discoloration. The good news is that these color changes only occur in teeth that are affected by the incident.
Teeth Whitening – When Bleaching May Not Be the Best Option
Most people are under the impression that all tooth stains can be removed through the whitening process. Depending on the cause of your tooth stains, you may not be the best candidate for bleaching. Let’s take a look at some reasons why whitening may not be the best idea.
Dental Restorations: Those with dental restorations will be sorely disappointed to learn that both over the counter and professional teeth whitening products are ineffective against crowns, veneers, bridges and bonding (white fillings). In this case, bleaching will lead to uneven whitening. Teeth without restorations will appear visibly whiter than the restorations themselves. For this reason, whitening should be done before restorations are put in place or plan to replace the more yellow restorations once bleaching is complete.
Allergies and Sensitivity: Those with sensitive teeth and gums are typically not good candidates for teeth whitening. The process itself often heightens tooth sensitivity, which can make the problem even worse. Defective restorations or receding gums can also be an issue. Furthermore, any person who is allergic to peroxide should not use whitening products.
Dental Health Issues: If you have cavities, exposed roots, periodontal disease or worn enamel, you should consult with your dentist before having your teeth whitened. Cavities may need to be treated before bleaching can occur as the whitening solutions could penetrate through the decayed areas of the tooth and increase sensitivity.
Expectations: Some people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to teeth whitening. How effective the whitening process is will depend greatly on the current state of your teeth and your lifestyle. For example, smokers will find that bleaching will only go so far and that many teeth stains will remain permanent or return quickly. There are also some individuals that expect to have “blinding white” teeth, which is unrealistic. Naturally white teeth are slightly whiter than the whites of your eyes. Also, keep in mind that some people have naturally darker teeth due to genetics.
Medications: Those who are on medication should always consult with their doctor before attempting any teeth whitening procedures.
Pregnancy: Teeth whitening is not recommended for women who are pregnant or lactating.
If you are considering teeth whitening but are unsure of whether or not you are a good candidate for the procedure, be sure to speak with your dentist. After a thorough examination, your dentist will be able to determine whether or not this is the right choice and how effective bleaching will be. Dr. Scott Williams and his staff would be happy to help you find a way to brighten your smile. Make an appointment today to discover whether or not teeth whitening can help restore your sparkling smile.