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Why our teeth become yellow

Dr Paras Malde gives you the ins and out of why our teeth yellow over time and how we can prevent it.

Paras Malde
29 August, 2019
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White teeth have long been epitomised as the standard. And it’s a standard we all at some point find ourselves hoping to attain. Anything we watch, from blockbuster movies to budget TV shows are all filled with pearly white sets of teeth so it is only natural that we begin to wonder why our teeth are different. If teeth are supposed to be white then why are ours yellow? Are we missing something or are we just not taking due care of our oral hygiene? The answer is surprising to most and I’m about to go through it right now.

Patients often walk into the practice with a series of questions regarding the shade of their teeth but they all boil down to one thing, ‘why are my teeth yellow?’.

What are our teeth are made up of?

Our teeth are made up of a few things but we’re going to focus on enamel and dentine. The outer layers of our teeth are enamel; it is a naturally white mineral and is the hardest substance in the human body designed to last a lifetime.

But it can become damaged either naturally with age or because of diet and brushing our teeth too hard. Dentine is the under-layer that becomes more exposed when our enamel thins and is darker than our enamel and almost yellow in colour which causes a colouring effect on our teeth making them appear yellow.

What causes the staining?

There are a lot of factors that lead to our teeth to becoming darker over time, everything from the teas, coffees and curries to the red wine, fizzy drinks and other alcoholic beverages. And smoking is another major culprit. All these things make our teeth darker and by the time patients get to the practice with concerns about the shade of their teeth, they’ve already been consuming these things for a while. Patients range from mid-20’s onward and even people who are about to get married that are now more aware and conscious of the shade of their teeth and want to do something about it.

One of the biggest reason’s patients become aware of the way their teeth look happens to be job interviews, as daunting as it already is, it doesn’t help to have insecurities about one’s appearance when walking into the interview room.

How do I prevent it?

We naturally then end up discussing teeth whitening as an option with many patients and it’s discussed openly and honestly, it’s easily available, and is only provided to patients who are healthy.

Quitting smoking and taking care of your diet

Without whitening a lot of the things from our diets that lend a hand to the darkening of our teeth, such as the sweet foods, acidic foods and staining foods will have to be a lot more controlled and may even need to be completely cut out in order to prevent the darkening and the ageing of the tooth. But if that’s not something you want to do then in that respect one of the things that dentists tend to, and I also personally recommend, is drinking through a straw rather than drinking straight from the can. By drinking through a straw, you end up minimising the staining foods wherever you can.

Can I do whitening?

Whether or not you can have whitening done or not really does all depend on your health, if you’re deemed to be fit and healthy then you can easily get teeth whitening done and it’s not uncommon for many dental practices to have ‘pay monthly’ options so it doesn’t have to damage your pocket either.

However if your teeth are worn past a certain point and you are deemed not to be in the right state for whitening then as dentists we prefer prevention over cure (which is why we emphasise the importance of prevention and correct oral hygiene in appointments) so we would ask the patient to work on their health and get to a stable phase before we treat them. This can mean quitting smoking and taking care of your diet etc. And once it’s all under control then we can have the patient’s teeth whitened and have their teeth built up/improved if that’s what they require (usually for worn out teeth) or want.

Why do I need to whiten before bonding?

The reason we whiten before building teeth up is because the material used to build your tooth will not whiten. And that goes for anyone who is having whitening done and has had their teeth built up (bonded) previously, post whitening they will require replacing the bonded part of their tooth. So of course, doing the whitening before having any work done is the easiest and cheapest option for the patient. Which is generally why we ask our patients to consider if they want whitening done before we do any kind of build up work on their teeth. This is purely because if they decide later on that they want to have their teeth whitened then we’ll have to remove all the work that was previously done, which will obviously have a cost to it, and then an additional cost of redoing all the work as building up teeth can be quite expensive. It is also a long process. So, the usual order is to get patients in a stable phase if they are not healthy and then build their teeth up to match the shade of their either natural teeth or whitened teeth.

All in all, we can limit the extent to which our teeth yellow. Controlling our diets and smoking as well as having whitening done will give you an everlasting beautiful smile that won’t change much as we get older.

Want to learn more about whitening?

If you’re looking to learn more about whitening then give it a click here and here.

And if you’re considering whitening head to Enlighten Smiles to see what whitening could do for you.

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