A survey carried out by Statistic Brain, a research company in the United States, showed that in 2015 alone, people spent a whopping $11bn (N4tn) on teeth whitening, including $1.4bn (N511bn) on teeth whitening products, which further demonstrate the attention people pay to having white teeth.
The survey revealed that at least, 32 per cent are concerned with the look of their teeth, while others have accepted ‘fate’. Also, 18 per cent say they usually conceal their teeth in photos, perhaps because they feel the teeth are not well arranged or white enough; 74 per cent of adults believe an unattractive smile, courtesy of coloured teeth, can hurt chances for career success, and a whopping 96 per cent says an attractive smile makes you more appealing to the opposite sex.
But, according to a consultant oral pathologist, Dr. Foluso Olajide, it is not natural for every human being on earth to have white teeth, even from birth, and having cream or yellow teeth does not mean poor oral hygiene. She said, “The colour of the human teeth is related to racial colour, complexion differences and genetics. There is a tendency that the darker you are, by nature, the whiter your teeth tends to be.
“Perhaps it is nature’s way of providing balance, so that if you are dark, God made your teeth white, and if you are fair, it could be brownish or yellowish, as you would have observed. Definitely, Africans have whiter teeth than Caucasians and Asians. So, it is not a natural shade for everyone in the world. In essence, everybody comes with a shade of teeth colour, which is dependent on genetics and race. First, people must come to accept their natural colouration.”
However, it should be noted that discolouration of teeth doesn’t just happen; there are factors responsible for it. Olajide explained the different factors responsible for this and the possible solutions:
Maintain high oral hygiene: According to the expert, discolouration of teeth could be a product of poor oral hygiene. She said if one eats different things without brushing the teeth enough or regularly, there is a tendency that such persons would keep having leftover food in the crevices of their teeth. She said, “Later, the deposit of food debris or plaque becomes solidified and become very hard to remove over time, which could result in greenish or yellowish discolouration of the teeth.” It is also for this reason that some medical experts advocate that people should brush their teeth effectively twice daily, so that food deposit and other things that cling to their teeth could be removed with ease.
Watch what you eat: It is worthy of note that the kind of food people eat could also impact positively or negatively on the colour of their teeth. Olajide pointed out that people who take coffee a lot tend to have brownish spots on their teeth, which tooth brush might not be able to remove after a while. She added, “You can also acquire it from food like Kolanut, just as you see that people of northern extraction who chew kolanut tend to have their teeth red, just because they have acquired that stain from the kolanut. Those are extrinsic stains, and they are difficult to remove because normal tooth brushing may make it difficult to remove some of these things.” In fact, some people joke that any food that can stain a white clothe could stain the teeth, and such examples include tea, certain fruits and coffee.
Pregnant mothers should take caution: Usually, pregnant women are advised not to take any drug without the prescription of a doctor, because of its impact on the baby in their womb. The teeth are not left out of such an effect. Olajide explained that some antibiotics like tetracycline causes intrinsic staining on the teeth of the baby when a woman takes such a drug during pregnancy. She said, “For a pregnant woman that takes that drug, it could stain the teeth of her unborn child, not even hers, because primary dentition develops during pregnancy. Even though a child is born without teeth, most of the teeth, like the crown, are already developed by the time the child is born, all that remains is for the teeth to erupt few months after. But, if a woman takes such a drug, it could come out black, grey or very dark brown, which is an extreme variation from the normal shade and it is caused by the misuse of medication during pregnancy or early childhood.”
Ailment as a child: One other way children could come up with discoloured teeth is if they are struck with certain childhood diseases, like measles, chicken pox and some types of viral fevers while any of their tooth is developing. Olajide explained that the tooth developing at that period while the disease is on would likely be discoloured by the time it comes out. She said, “The permanent teeth are formed beneath the primary teeth. So, when you see a child with milk teeth, at the base of that, inside the bone, the next set of teeth is already forming. As the child drops off the primary teeth, the permanent ones are ready to erupt. That is why a child should not suffer any of those diseases at that stage, because when they do, it disrupts the colouration of those permanent teeth.” She reckoned that any child with such an error might not be disposed to laughing in public as it could affect them psychologically, but that the solution might be bleaching. She also pointed out that certain chemicals in some of the tonics or syrups children are given could make them have black stains as a result of the prolonged use of such blood tonics or syrups. “So, it is advised that before the age of 12, a child should not be administered Tetracycline because it tends to attach itself to the calcium deposit and discolour the teeth,” she added.
Apart from the several medical problems that smoking cause, including lung cancer, digestive system disorders and increased risk of stroke, it has also been found to lead to gum disease, mouth cancer and teeth stains. The teeth (brownish) stains is said to be a product of the nicotine and tar in tobacco, which causes brown stains to penetrate the grooves and pits of tooth enamel. WebMD also found that the more people smoke, the more the stains would be more entrenched. Smoking has also been found to cause bad breath and gingivitis, a gum disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling of the gum around the base of the teeth. Understandably, these give people an impaired oral appeal. Even though there is a smoker’s toothpaste, it is said that it might not be as effective as abstinence.
Aging: According to WebMD, a site that provides valuable health information and tools for managing one’s health, aging is one other factor that makes the outer layer of the teeth, known as enamel, to wear, thereby revealing the natural (yellow) colour of the dentin. Olajide added that apart from aging, excessive brushing could also make the enamel to wear out, adding that a procedure called tooth bleaching is recommended for people who have discolouration by intrinsic staining. However, it should be noted that as people age, it is normal for the whiteness of the teeth to reduce as the enamel would wear off gradually.
See a dentist:
Perhaps the only way to have one’s desired teeth would be to see a dentist, not only to have that desired colour of teeth, but it also helps to avoid complications that could arise and help to avoid tooth decay. Olajide said, “There are several people who have never consulted a dentist in a lifetime. It is advocated that at least once a year, people should visit a dentist, even if it is to ascertain that they don’t have cavity (destruction of the tooth enamel), or if they have discolouration that is extreme. People should know that they would get better treatment when they see an expert.” People come to the dentist asking for scaling and polishing with the erroneous thought that the procedure would whiten their teeth, whereas, it is only to remove food deposit and other things that clung to their teeth, which regular tooth brushing does not remove.
Some experts have advised that dark chocolate and strawberries, taken first thing in the morning, as well as chewing gum and apple, due to its water content, could help whiten the teeth. WebMD also advised that some forms of mouthwash and mouth rinse that have chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can stain teeth; so also can disease, infections and certain medications, like antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs. Drugs for high blood pressure have been found to stain the teeth. It also added that antibiotics and doxycycline have been found to discolour the teeth of children below eight.
People are also advised to use approved teeth whitening products and kits, but the caution is that excessive use of teeth whitening products could cause teeth sensitivity and occasional irritation of the soft tissues in the mouth, being a peroxide-based bleaching agent. Even though they could be treated, prevention, as they say, is better than cure.
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