Unfortunately, sometimes stains can get in the way of this goal, and they come in several different types. Let’s take a look at a few of the main types of tooth stains and how they happen.
Sometimes white spots can appear on the surface of perfectly healthy teeth. This phenomenon is called fluorosis, and it occurs when developing adult teeth get exposed to too much fluoride. They aren’t damaged by it, but they do become unevenly bleached. To prevent fluorosis, make sure to limit the amount of fluoride toothpaste you use when brushing your child’s teeth. No more than a tiny smear for babies and toddlers is enough, and keep it to a pea-sized dab for young children.
Not all white spots are as harmless as the ones caused by fluorosis. They can also come from demineralization, which is the gradual leaching of crucial minerals (like calcium) from the tooth enamel, leaving it weaker. How does demineralization happen? From exposure to acid and the buildup of plaque over time. People with braces are particularly susceptible, which is why it’s so crucial to maintain good brushing and flossing habits while the braces are on.
Another type of stain is the kind caused by what we eat and drink. Pigments, acid, and other natural and artificial chemicals in food and drink can lead to stains on our teeth if we aren’t careful. Major culprits include wine, coffee, black tea, cola, sports drinks, hard candy, berries, and even tomato sauce.
You won’t end up with stained teeth after a single serving of one of these items, but they can gradually cling to the enamel and wear it away, resulting in unsightly stains over time. We recommend consuming these things in moderation, rinsing with water afterward, and brushing and flossing twice a day to keep the stains at bay. Good oral health habits are a great preventative measure for demineralization too.
Not all stains happen on the outside of the tooth. Intrinsic tooth discoloration is what happens when the dentin beneath the enamel gets darker. This could be the result of trauma to the tooth from an injury. Certain medications can also cause intrinsic tooth discoloration, as can a rare condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta. External whitening treatments won’t do anything about these kinds of stains.
As we mentioned above, the best defense against many types of dental stains is a rigorous dental health routine. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush for two full minutes and floss daily. And don’t forget about visiting the dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning! These regular appointments are the best way to catch developing problems in their early stages.