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Why Did My Teeth Change Color?

Over time, your teeth can go from white to not so bright for several reasons:

- Food and Drink

Coffee, tea and red wine are some major staining culprits. What do they have in common? Intense color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth (enamel).

- Tobacco Use

Two chemicals found in tobacco create stubborn stains: Tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colourless until it is mixed with oxygen. Then, it turns into a yellowish, surface-staining substance.

- Age

Below the hard, white outer shell of your teeth (enamel) is a softer area called dentin. Over time, the outer enamel layer gets thinner with brushing, and more of the yellowish dentin shows through.

- Trauma

If you have been hit in the mouth, your tooth may change color because it reacts to an injury by laying down more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.

- Medications

Tooth darkening can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, anti-psychotics and high blood pressure medications. Young children who are exposed to antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when their teeth are forming (either in the womb or as a baby) may have discoloration of their adult teeth later in life. Chemotherapy and head and neck radiation can also darken teeth.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth whitening is a simple process. Whitening products contain one of two tooth bleaches (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.

What Are My Whitening Options?

- Stain Removal Toothpastes

All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives that scrub the teeth. These toothpastes have additional polishing agents that are safe for your teeth and provide stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these types of ADA-Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.

- In-Office Bleaching

This procedure is called chair side bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect your gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth.

- At-Home Bleaching from Your Dentist

Your dentist can provide you with a custom-made tray for at-home whitening. In this case, the dentist will give you instructions on how to place the bleaching solution in the tray and for what length of time. This may be a preferred option if you feel more comfortable whitening in your own home at a slower pace, but still with the guidance of a dentist. Out-of-office bleaching can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

- Over-the-Counter Bleaching Products

You may see different options online or in your local grocery store, such as toothpastes or strips that whiten by bleaching your teeth. The concentration of the bleaching agent in these products is lower than what your dentist would use in the office. If you are thinking about using an over-the-counter bleaching kit, discuss options with your dentist and look for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That means it has been tested to be safe and effective for teeth whitening.

How to take care of your teeth after a whitening treatment

The first twenty-four hours after a treatment are especially important. Here are some rules for post-treatment care:

--> Avoid drinks that leave dark stains such as coffee, red wine, fruit juice, dark sodas, beer, and black tea.

--> Avoid foods that leave dark stains such as soy sauce, cured meats, chocolate, and any kind of fruit.

--> No smoking, although limited use of e-cigarettes is ok.

--> Avoid colored toothpaste and mouthwashes, for example, red or blue.

These guidelines can be summed up as “if it would stain a white shirt, it will stain a white tooth”. Whatever passes through your lips after a tooth whitening treatment should be light colored and a soft, non-acidic texture. Some foods that fall under this description and would be good choices post-treatment include:

· Cauliflower

· Milk

· Pasta

· Rice

· White cream sauces

· Eggs

· Whitefish

· White cheese

· Skinless chicken breast

· Tofu

· Peeled potatoes

· White yogurt

After the first twenty-four hours, try to avoid teeth staining foods for as long as you can. This will greatly impact how long the results of your treatment last. If you go right back to your teeth-staining habits, then you will notice the whiteness of your teeth starting to dull after only three months. If you keep up your good habits your teeth whitening should last for a year or more.

Some tips for ongoing care include:

--> Brush your teeth with water or white toothpaste immediately after eating or drinking anything that stains.

--> Follow a good daily oral routine, including brushing, flossing, and mouthwash every morning and night.

--> Consider whitening touch-ups every six months or so for best results if you smoke or drink a lot of dark beverages.

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