White teeth is almost always the goal for most people as it is seen as a sign of youth and beauty but there are many reasons that teeth discolor over time. This is something to be very aware of as it can indicate an underlying health issue if your teeth are any color but white. Several different factors play into the color of your teeth.
There is beauty in the magic splendor of softly falling flakes of snow against the backdrop of winter’s color palate, but when it comes to teeth, most people want one shade: the whitest white that white can be. Unfortunately, teeth come in many shades and can change color from a variety of causes.
As the tooth enamel develops, the color can be affected by many factors, says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Howard S. Glazer, DDS, FAGD. “White, bright teeth certainly help maintain a youthful appearance,” said Dr. Glazer. Unfortunately, stains from food and drink can darken teeth over time, usually resulting in a yellow or orange hue. Illness, heredity or environmental factors can cause discoloration. In rare cases, injury can discolor teeth.
Maternal use of certain antibiotics, notably those of the tetracycline family, during pregnancy can cause brown or gray discoloration of the baby’s tooth enamel. Children who take this medication during the period of permanent tooth development may have similar discoloration of the permanent teeth.
But you don’t have to live with a dull smile, says Dr. Glazer. “With today’s techniques and materials, we can change the color of a patient’s teeth to provide a more healthy, youthful appearance,” he said.
Professional tooth-whitening products can improve enamel color in many instances, although severe discoloration may require bonding procedures for good cosmetic results. Contact your dentist to obtain a proper diagnosis and to learn what treatment options are available.
Updated: January 2012