Goodbye Yellow Teeth – A Short Guide to Teeth Whitening
Why are yellow or discoloured teeth a problem?
Yellow teeth as such aren’t actually a problem, although many people believe that nice bright pearly whites are synonymous with health and beauty… who doesn’t love a beaming white radiant smile??
For this reason treating yellow and discoloured teeth is one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures. Tooth discolouration has different causes, and will require different approaches to treatment: it all begins with a correct diagnosis thus establishing the cause. Don’t forget for example, that canine teeth are naturally more yellow!
Why choose Dr Workman to look after you?
Not only is Dr Workman a very good dentist, he has genuine caring nature and always makes sure you feel truly looked after. This is why he has such a loyal following of, families, young professionals right through to our older generation. With over 12 years experience, he is young, passionate, great at what he does and has an excellent aesthetic eye. If you would like a dental professional you can really trust, who places your health, happiness and comfort as an absolute priority, then you would be hard pushed to look any further. If you have typed ‘dentist near me’ then our state of the art Maroubra dental practice won’t be far away.
What causes your teeth to be yellow or discolour?
Some people have naturally whiter teeth (like Dr Jamie- he’s lucky, and the first to admit it!). Some teeth are more yellow, and some even grey. Teeth can vary in colour from one tooth to the next, or even within the same tooth… as you go from the more translucent enamel at the tip, through the body of the enamel to a yellower root surface at the base, especially if some root is exposed.
In addition to our genetics, tooth colour can be affected by a multitude of different things:
• Natural tooth formation- canines tend to be 1-2 shades darker than all the other teeth just due the thickness of the dentine layer.
• Drinking/eating dark-coloured foods and beverages (black tea, coffee, red wine, etc.) will stain your teeth over time.
• Eating and certain fruits and vegetables (e.g. blueberries, beetroot)
• Cavities- sugary foods and poor hygiene may cause mineral loss in your teeth; colour changes occur during this process from a lighter white appearance through to a brown, dark spot or area or even a hole.
• Acid erosion- drinking and eating acidic foods and drinks will, over time cause erosion of the outer enamel layer and mean that the darker dentine shines through creating a yellower appearance.
• Smoking- tobacco in any form, whether you smoke or chew.
• Medical conditions- certain diseases and medications may effect the developing teeth and create changes in appearance.
• Tetracycline staining- this is one of the most common antibiotics that cause staining in the development of teeth. It can vary from a slight greying to a severe grey and a dark banding across the teeth. This is especially common in Asian countries
• Metal in restorations- If the enamel supporting the amalgam filling is very thin on the outside, you may get silver shining through your tooth, creating a darker appearance.
• Age- naturally teeth discolour as we age; from the wear of the white enamel, coupled with the cumulative effect of an individual’s lifestyle. Cracks and receding gums- also contribute to changes in colour and appearance.
• Fluorosis- over-exposure to excessive fluoride can cause mottling or issues with enamel during their formative years.
• Teeth trauma or a root canal- dead teeth can go grey or very dark and require internal bleaching and maybe a thicker restoration to mask the problem.
• Chlorhexidine mouthwash- used for prolonged periods can stain your teeth brown.
• General poor hygiene- clean teeth reflect the light effectively and appear brighter.
Plaque, stain and build up on teeth dull the colour considerably. Hence the importance of regular check up and cleans and excellent oral hygiene at home.
• Stained restorations- staining can build up around old white fillings at the margins
• Receding gums- expose yellower roots underneath
What treatment options are there?
Initially without question, begin with a scale and polish, this can really help remove the plaque and bacteria that change the way the light reflects on the teeth. It can remove a lot of the superficial stain that builds up from the diet and lifestyle habits over time. Once this has been done you have a good foundation from which to move forward.
Here we need to enter the realm of cosmetic dentistry: there are a number of treatments available and various combinations that can be used effectively together. The treatments which are appropriate for you depend on your individual situation, your circumstances, the diagnosis of the problem and the outcome that you want to achieve.
If it’s simply the colour you wish to change because your teeth are yellow, dark or discoloured then some form of tooth whitening will be the way to go.
There are two basic whitening options:
1. Professional dentist home-whitening- this involves taking a mould of your teeth, having an accurate and close fitting tray made by a skilled dental technician and then having Dr Jamie prescribe a series of peroxide syringes which you place in the tray and wear for as little as 20 minutes, up to an hour or even overnight in some stubborn circumstances. The percentage will vary on a number of factors.
2. Power bleaching- this is an in-office 1 hour treatment where we use the highest possible percentage of hydrogen peroxide (35%) to whiten your teeth in 3 or 4 intervals. Because of the strength of the bleach used it is necessary to isolate the gums so a protective barrier is placed making sure that the gel only ever gets on your teeth. When we carry out this treatment, we will also include the dentist-home whitening above to allow you to top up further, as and when required.
If there are other issues you wish to address as part of the colour improvement… for example you may have discoloured fillings, dark cracks, crowns or mottled teeth… then you may need additional treatments such as:
• Cosmetic bonding
• White or tooth coloured fillings
• Porcelain crowns
• Porcelain veneer
• Composite veneers
These treatments can also be used to change the shapes and sizes of your teeth, if you are looking for a more general cosmetic smile enhancement.
In certain situations, teeth may not respond to whitening and require one of the treatments above. These may also include multi-coloured teeth – those stained internally (especially from tetracycline). These problems will take much longer to whiten and the teeth may benefit from porcelain veneers.
How can I prevent my teeth getting yellow teeth?
First, you should take a look at the causes of discolouration: staining or yellowing… identify the ones that apply to you.
Think about the foods you eat, foods that would badly stain a white t-shirt- these will stain your teeth as well! Acidic foods, when eaten repeatedly, could strip away valuable enamel.
Brush and floss your teeth well everyday- not hard, just correctly…tooth brush abrasion will reveal yellow roots and the gum will never grow back once worn away.
Visit Dr Jamie every 6 months for a thorough check and clean- he will get you back on track and remove any staining that you might have picked up over the preceding months.
Consider Home whitening and use a top-up syringe a couple of times every few months…by all means consider a whitening toothpaste… these can help with superficial stains, but they won’t change the colour of your teeth.
Download our whitening FAQ
|Treatment time||Power bleaching | Home bleaching | Bonding | Veneers|
|Cost||See treatment page for details|
- Dr Jamie’s education site; Jamiethedentist.com where you can hear him speak and read about TOPIC in a lot more detail.
- These other excellent resources: