Can a healthy diet damage the appearance of your teeth? Whitening Wisdom: Part One

November 15, 2017

Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments in Australia, and over the last few years teeth whitening has become a huge industry with a range of new products and technologies becoming available.

This article is Part One of our Whitening Wisdom series, which will examine teeth whitening as an industry, go through the science and inform you on the best ways to go about getting a healthy, attractive, white smile.

In Part One we will go through how and why tooth staining happens, understanding the importance of diet and how you can manage tooth stains from dietary sources.

It is important to understand that a very healthy diet - rich in coloured fruits and vegetables can stain teeth in a similar fashion to smoking and regularly consuming coffee, tea and wine.

To learn more about teeth stains, diet and getting a healthy, white smile - keep reading.

How & Why Teeth Get Stained

First things first, we will be addressing the cause of tooth staining - which ironically can actually be increased by a diet rich in certain healthy foods.

There are two kinds of stains to teeth - Intrinsic stains and Extrinsic stains.

tooth enamel teeth whitening dentin tooth stains

Extrinsic Stains

Extrinsic stains are predominantly caused by the types of foods and drink we eat. These are the more superficial stains on the outer layer of the tooth. These occur as a result of of two things, the accumulation of chromophores on the tooth, and the reaction between sugars and amino acids.

Usually, these stains are localised to the surface of the enamel and because of this, extrinsic stains can often be removed by brushing and maintaining a regular oral health routine. If not managed well, extrinsic stains will become darker and more persistent over time.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains are stains that affect the inner layer of the tooth - the dentin. They are caused by deeper internal stains, or defects on the enamel.

They are caused by aging, ingestion of chromogenic food and drinks, tobacco usage, enamel microcracks, tetracycline medication, excessive fluoride ingestion, severe jaundice in infancy, porphyria, dental caries, restorations, and the thinning of the enamel layer. Aging often results in darker teeth. This is due to the formation of a secondary layer of dentin inside the tooth which is darker than the previous layer. Another, deeper stain can be caused by drug ingestion. This can occur with the antibiotic, Tetracycline which when ingested during childhood, is incorporated into the dentin of the adult tooth while it is forming, causing discolouration.

Intrinsic stains cannot be removed by brushing as the stain is deeper within the tooth. Intrinsic stains can be removed, or at least improved by certain chemical reactions that can penetrate the enamel and break down the staining compounds.

What is a chromophore & how does this relate to having white teeth?

A chromophore is the part of a chemical compound that is responsible for its colour. An auxochrome is a group of these compounds that generally increase the richness of the colour to the human eye.

Richly coloured foods are considered to be highly chromogenic. Teeth become stained when these chromophoric compounds penetrate into the microscopic pores, notches and grooves of the enamel.

Once the chromophores enter into the structure of the enamel they become very difficult to remove with normal brushing. Most cheaper and non-professional whitening products such as generic whitening toothpastes, over the counter options and those commonly found online will also be ineffective at removing the stains once this happens.

What does my diet have to do with it?

Simply put, a healthy diet consists of a lot of fruit and vegetables - especially those that are richly coloured. Most scientists agree that plants have evolved with rich colours for a range of purposes including sun protection, antifungal properties and to encourage animals to propagate their seeds. 1

For humans, many of these phytochemicals that give the plant its colour have powerful antioxidant health benefits. Pigments like anthocyanins found in foods like blueberries, cherries and pomegranate are a powerful antioxidant and may possess anti-inflammatory properties, and also help with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. 2

At Laser + Holistic Dental, we strongly encourage people to consume a wide range of coloured fruits and vegetables - however not many people make the connection between their healthy diet and the cosmetic stains on their teeth.

If you want to have the whitest smile possible, learn which foods play a significant role in tooth stains and tweak your consumption habits to minimise any cosmetic staining.

holistic teeth whitening diet tooth stains

Which Foods & Drinks Are Chromogenic?

If you regularly consume any of these foods they are likely to be contributing to yellowing and staining of your teeth.

How to deal with teeth stains from food:

If you are concerned about the impact that these foods may be having on the appearance of your teeth - there are a few options to consider.

Tweak consumption habits:

Identify which foods are likely to be contributing the most staining, and change your consumption habits. This doesn’t mean you should cut out your coffee, tea or berry smoothie - instead consume in one sitting instead of sipping constantly, reduce the frequency where possible and try using a straw to minimise contact with the tooth surfaces.

Rinse and/or brush after eating or drinking:

Rinsing or drinking some water after eating is always a good idea to help neutralise the pH of the mouth, wash away any extra food and help to remove any staining compounds.

You may like to consider brushing immediately after eating or drinking to reduce staining. Manual brushing will help to remove any residue stuck to the outer surface of the enamel - however this is not recommended after drinking anything acidic as it can damage the enamel surface. Carbonated drinks, citrus juices, coffee and and tea are all acidic so keep this in mind.

Use a mineralising paste to reduce stains:

At Laser + Holistic Dental we use mineralising pastes to protect the tooth surface for a range of different treatments including teeth whitening. These mineralising pastes reduce the porousity of the tooth surface - filling in the gaps and grooves in the enamel that chromophores often will get stuck to.

If you integrate these mineralising pastes into your everyday oral hygiene routine, there may be a proactive benefit at reducing teeth staining compounds from binding to your teeth. A stronger, mineralised enamel surface can prevent stains from penetrating into your teeth and discolouring them over time.

At your next appointment - ask us if regular use of mineralising pastes will be beneficial for you.

Whitening Wisdom: Part Two

The next article of the Whitening Wisdom series - Spoilt For Choice - What Teeth Whitening Works & What Doesn’t, dives into at home teeth whitening methods from natural home remedies, over the counter products and professional whitening treatments. We compare the way these whitening methods actually work, assess the evidence and determine which ones are worth the effort and which ones may be actually harmful to tooth health.

Part Two Is Now Available here.
holistic dental teeth whitening tooth stains

Laser + Holistic Dental is a holistic dentist in Melbourne, Australia.

Located in South Yarra, Laser + Holistic Dental offers a new approach to teeth whitening using a combination of special lasers, high quality whitening gels and calcium mineral pastes.

For a whiter, healthier smile without any of the common sensitivity issues - get in touch to find out more.

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