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Tooth color: the determining factors

The color of the teeth, which the stereotype of the commercials would like to have an impeccable white, is actually one of the distinctive elements that characterize each individual. As with hair, tooth color is also determined by genetic factors. The specificity of the color is given, for each of us, by the dentine the innermost tissue of the tooth; the enamel that covers it is translucent and therefore makes its color shine through.
Although it is impossible to intervene on the base color of the dentine, it is instead very important to preserve the enamel from external factors that can affect the shine of our teeth.
In fact, over time, even for a physiological aging process, enamel thins and becomes particularly subject to the creation of pores which, in addition to useful substances, such as fluorine which has the task of remineralizing it, also allow the substances responsible for discolouration of the teeth.

The so-called pigments, colored substances present in food and drink (coffee, red wine, carbonated drinks that contain dyes …) or in cigarettes (nicotine, tar) dissolve in saliva and are absorbed by depositing under the surface layer of the enamel giving rise to discoloration, i.e. the alteration of the natural color of the teeth with the consequent appearance of yellowish spots.

Tooth anatomyNot only do the vices of food and smoking compromise a dazzling smile, the excessive use of mouthwash (which contains substances such as chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium) can also cause the appearance of opaque white spots on the entire surface of the tooth.
In the cases described so far, the color change of the teeth is always reversible, i.e. the original color can be recovered thanks to the professional intervention of the dentist.

On the other hand, there are cases in which mineralization defects occur during tooth formation, these cause irreversible color changes. Responsible for these problems are some drugs taken in pregnancy (tetracyclines) or an overdose of fluorine (administered to children from birth to prevent tooth decay) can cause fluorosis or permanent hypomineralization of the enamel with the appearance of white spots on the teeth.
To prevent the color of the teeth from being permanently damaged it would be advisable to avoid taking that type of medication during pregnancy and to respect an adequate fluoride dosage in the early years of children, fundamental moments for the formation of the teeth.

Careful and scrupulous oral hygiene is the first step in preserving the natural color of the teeth, even unremoved plaque and tartar make the surface of the enamel opaque.

The use of whitening toothpastes is not enough, first of all because they do not have properties so different from common toothpastes and secondly the abrasive substances present in some of them could further ruin and thin the enamel. However, do-it-yourself toothpastes or whitening products cannot act on existing stains.
Periodic oral hygiene sessions by your dentist are much more effective for the prevention of color alteration, while to eliminate pre-existing stains, dental practices use products based on hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide that act directly on the pigment molecules and thanks to a chemical reaction neutralize the stains.
Usually a whitening treatment is carried out in one session with the application of a gel whose action is solicited by the patient’s exposure to a light (laser, plasma or LED).

Entrusting the whitening of one’s teeth to a professional instead of trying out DIY procedures has the advantage of having guaranteed and long-lasting effects. It is also important to always check that all conditions are favorable to the treatment to avoid further damage, a dentist can establish that caries or gum infections are not in progress before using bleaching products or that the presence of prostheses can interfere in the satisfactory outcome of the intervention .

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