DEAR DR. BOLES: I am a bit of a coffee junkie, and I’ve noticed my teeth look less bright than they used to. What’s the best way to get rid of these stains? – John, Laconia, NH
DEAR JOHN: You’re not alone. Coffee, tea, soda, wine, and tobacco all wreak havoc on our smiles. Discoloration gets worse over time, and before we know it, our teeth appear dull and stained.
First, you should get a professional dental cleaning, which will deeply clean the teeth and remove surface stains.
Second, drink water or eat something with a high water content, such as carrots. This will help rinse out your mouth and reduce staining. You can also brush after your coffee fix, but be gentle. Anytime you drink or eat a sugary item it creates bacterial acids that cause the pH in your mouth to drop. Over time this can make tooth enamel “softer” and more vulnerable to abrasion.
Additional whitening can be achieved with an in-office, professional whitening process. In my office, we offer the Opalescence Tooth Whitening System, which takes about an hour and whitens teeth without using heat or ultraviolet rays like other whitening systems.
Another option is the Opalescence Take Home Whitening Gels. You can whiten your teeth at home when it’s convenient. Unlike whitening treatments you buy in the store, these gels are stronger and used with a custom bleaching tray made from an impression of your mouth. This ensures the gel reaches all surfaces of your teeth for the most effective teeth whitening.
If you decide to whiten your teeth, you should discuss the process with your dentist. He or she can help you determine the best whitening system to combat the sources of discoloration and make sure your smile looks its brightest.