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Top 10 causes of tooth discoloration
NEW YORK, NY, USA: Your job as a dental hygienist is to help your patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. They also want to leave your chair with whiter teeth — in fact the whiter the better. Nobody wants discolored, dirty-looking teeth. As you know, the causes of tooth discoloration are many and varied. Some factors can be reduced by changes in patient behavior, while others causes are beyond the control of the patient.
A recent article at WebMD.com pointed out the top 10 culprits of tooth discoloration. Here they are:

1. Food and drink. Coffee, tea, carbonated beverages and red wine can discolor teeth. Even certain fruits and vegetables can cause stains.

2. Tobacco products. Smoking or chewing tobacco can stain teeth.

3. Inadequate brushing and flossing. If a patient doesn’t brush and floss regularly, it is more likely that plaque and stain-producing substances like coffee and tobacco will cause tooth discoloration.

4. Disease. Several diseases that affect enamel and dentin can lead to tooth discoloration. Treatments for certain conditions can also affect tooth color. For example, head and neck radiation and chemotherapy can cause teeth discoloration. In addition, certain infections in pregnant mothers can cause tooth discoloration in the infant by affecting enamel development.

5. Medications. The antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline are known to discolor teeth when given to children whose teeth are still developing (before the age of 8). Mouth rinses and washes containing chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can also stain teeth. Antihistamines (like Benadryl), antipsychotic drugs, and drugs for high blood pressure also cause teeth discoloration.

6. Certain dental materials. Some of the materials used in dentistry, such as amalgam restorations, especially silver sulfide-containing materials, can cast a gray-black color to teeth.

7. Advancing age. As a person ages, the outer layer of enamel on his or her teeth gets worn away, revealing the natural yellow color of dentin.

8. Genetics. Some people simply have naturally brighter or thicker enamel than others.

9. Environment. Excessive fluoride, either from environmental sources like naturally high fluoride levels in water, or from excessive use, such as fluoride applications, rinses, toothpaste and fluoride supplements taken by mouth, can cause teeth discoloration.

10. Trauma. Damage from a fall can disturb enamel formation in young children whose teeth are still developing. Trauma can also cause discoloration to adult teeth.

Some of these factors can’t be controlled, but others can be. By encouraging your patients to make a few simple lifestyle changes, you may be able to help them prevent discoloration of their pearly whites. Coffee drinkers or smokers might be persuaded to cut back or quit altogether. And of course, it never hurts to remind your patients that brushing and flossing regularly will make their next trip to see you will result in much less scraping and polishing.

by Fred Michmershuizen, DTA

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