Teeth whitening is a popular dental treatment, because it can turn yellow teeth gleaming white. And while many people think a white smile is a sure sign of optimal oral health — that’s not always true.
A professional whitening treatment can brighten nearly any teeth — even teeth with cracks, fissures, and cavities — but a tooth with a cavity is still a tooth with a cavity, whitened or not. On the other hand, if your teeth are yellow, that doesn’t necessarily mean your teeth and gums are unhealthy.
At Novi Family Dentistry in Novi, Michigan, Abir Faraj, DDS, offers state-of-the-art whitening treatments for patients at her practice. But, before recommending professional whitening treatments, she makes sure underlying problems are treated first. In this post, Dr. Faraj explains what can cause teeth to yellow and when yellowing can be a sign of oral health issues.
The natural color of teeth
Although they may be referred to as your “pearly whites,” most teeth are not naturally bright white. In fact, as we age, it’s natural for our teeth to take on a yellow tinge.
This is because the whiteness we see is determined by the thickness of our tooth enamel, which is the outermost (and hardest) part of our teeth. Just below the enamel is another layer of hard tissue called dentin.
Dentin has a natural yellowish tint, and when the enamel thins — which is usually a consequence of aging — the dentin underneath can begin to show through and make your teeth look yellower. Despite this, your teeth may actually be perfectly healthy and sound.
Enamel can thin over time due to years of biting, chewing, and other activities. Furthermore, some people are born with naturally thin enamel, which means their teeth may always look a little yellowish or “creamy” white.
When yellowing can be a sign of a problem
Yellowing on its own is rarely a sign of a problem, but there are times when a yellowish tinge can be a sign of a more serious issue. For instance, some discoloration can occur as a result of excess tartar buildup, which can leave you at risk for gum disease, deep infections, and eventual tooth loss.
Discoloration can also indicate a problem with the pulp of a tooth. At the center of each tooth are blood vessels and nerves, and collectively this tissue is called the pulp. If this tissue gets infected, due to a deep cavity, a crack in the tooth, or other damage, this can result in a yellowing of the tooth.
Yellow teeth can also be caused by long-term use of certain medications or by an underlying metabolic disease. While these issues aren’t necessarily oral health problems, they may still need medical attention — which is a big reason why yellow teeth should never be ignored or simply covered with whitening treatments.
Furthermore, if you’re born with thin enamel, or if your enamel becomes very worn as you get older, your teeth could be more prone to cavities, cracks, and other problems. That’s because the enamel layer is there to protect your teeth, and if it’s very thin, your teeth won’t have the protection they need to ward off problems.
So, while whitening treatments can work wonders, it’s crucial to have your teeth examined prior to being whitened, so any issues can be caught and treated first.
Help your smile stay beautiful and healthy
Dr. Faraj offers advanced whitening solutions that can lift away superficial stains and improve your smile. She also offers crowns, veneers, and dental bonding for issues that affect the deeper layers of teeth.
Most importantly, prior to recommending any treatment, Dr. Faraj examines your teeth and gums to determine the cause of the yellowing, so you can feel confident in your health as well as your appearance. To learn more about teeth whitening, call 313-646-7903 or book an appointment online with Novi Family Dentistry today.