Tooth discolouration

What is tooth discolouration?

Tooth discolouration is when the enamel (the hard, outer surface of the tooth) or the dentine (the layer below the enamel) become discoloured. Something as simple as food and drink may cause stains to appear on the teeth. Sometimes however, discolouration can indicate something more serious, such as exposure to substances that have harmed the teeth.

What causes tooth discolouration?

It takes several years for tooth enamel to develop and in that time, foreign substances can be incorporated altering the eventual colour of the teeth.

In children, discoloured baby teeth are usually a result of tooth decay, which is often caused by inadequate brushing. In such cases, normal, permanent teeth grow in to replace the discoloured teeth. However, if your child’s teeth appear discoloured despite careful brushing, there is probably some sort of a dental problem and you should consult your dentist.

In rare cases, childhood infections can make a tooth yellow or brown because the enamel did not develop properly.

An infant may have tooth discolouration if the mother took tetracycline during pregnancy. Similarly, children who take this medication during the period of permanent tooth development may have similar discolouration of their permanent teeth.

Teeth can darken over time due to stains from food and drink. Excessive use of fluoride can cause whitish to dark brown discolouration.

Illness, malnutrition and other types of physical stress can cause white splotches on the teeth. An injury that causes bleeding in the pulp of the tooth may cause the enamel to turn pink or grey.

How can I prevent tooth discolouration?

  • Avoid excessive fluoride use. You may want to find out the fluoride level in your local water supply. It is important that we take fluorine into our body, however too much can cause tooth discolouration.
  • Do not take drugs belonging to the tetracycline family if you are pregnant and do not give it to children who are under eight years of age.
  • Ensure that children are aware of the importance of dental hygiene. They should brush their teeth twice a day and this should be supervised to ensure that they are doing it properly. Most children need help with brushing until they are around seven.

What can I do about my discoloured teeth?

Visit your dentist. Advances in dentistry in recent years means that discolouration can usually be remedied. Cosmetic treatment, such as veneers or professional tooth-whitening products are among the common solutions.

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