Are Whiter Teeth Healthier? Not Necessarily – Here’s What You Need to Know
In recent years, a number of tooth whitening solutions have hit the market, promising a brighter, whiter smile. And although people generally believe that a whiter smile indicates healthier teeth, that’s a concept they learned from advertising – not dentists. If you have concerns about whether your teeth are the ‘right’ color, you’ll want to talk with a dentist to determine where your teeth sit on the standard color range. So does discoloration indicate a problem with your teeth? Not always. Here’s what you should know.
Healthy Teeth Have a Slightly Yellowed Appearance
In spite of our obsession with whiter teeth, most healthy teeth tend to have a light yellow hue. The outer layer of your teeth – the enamel – is a blue-white color. The middle layer – the dentin – is a thick tissue with a slightly yellow tinge. That means if you have a dense layer of dentin and sufficient enamel – which is good – your teeth should be off-white with a slightly yellowed appearance.
Getting Older? Darkening Teeth Are a Natural Part of the Aging Process
People change as they get older. They get wrinkles, their hair turns grey, and, over time, their teeth start to get darker. Even those of us who brush and floss twice a day without fail will start to see our teeth change over time. The more you age, the thicker and darker your dentin becomes. Your tooth enamel also gets thinner as you age, which makes the dentin more apparent. And after years of drinking coffee and tea, smoking, or simply eating food, your teeth develop stains. In some cases, genetics may play a role – if your parents or grandparents had yellow teeth in their old age, chances are you will, too.
All of this is a completely normal part of aging. Although your teeth are darker, that doesn’t by any means indicate that they’re less healthy. It’s simply another means of counting and measuring your life experience.
Black, Brown, or Green Stains Can Indicate a Problem
Although a yellow or darkening appearance isn’t necessarily indicative of a problem, there are some kinds of discoloration that will warrant a trip to the dentist’s office. If your teeth are darker than a light yellow color, it could be a result of heavy smoking, which can cause a variety of oral health issues. Some diseases, like fluorosis, can change the color of your enamel or dentin. Green or orange stains can indicate a buildup of bacteria or fungi – a thorough dental cleaning can usually treat this kind of discoloration. If you notice red, black or brown stains on your teeth, it may be a symptom of porphyria, a rare but manageable genetic disorder that affects the blood. Porphyria has no cure, but the disease is usually manageable with proper treatment.
If your pearly whites aren’t all that white, it’s not necessarily cause for alarm. Healthy teeth are usually off-white or slightly yellowed, and teeth naturally darken over time. But if you notice brown, black, or green stains on your teeth, you may have a chronic condition or need a thorough dental cleaning. Your local dentist can help you to understand what’s causing your discoloration and help you to find a treatment plan. Call Badie Dental at (520) 433-9800 to book a consultation with Dr. Badie.