Tag Archive - teeth

Can smoking cause stains on my teeth?

If you are someone who just started smoking, yes those stains on your teeth could be a result of smoking. They appear as dark brown stains found initially at the back of your teeth (the side facing your tongue). And quite often they cannot be removed by regular brushing. If you brush extra hard using a toothpaste that has very high abrasive content, you may stand a chance at removing the stains. But overdoing it can result in abrasion of the enamel which could result in sensitivity. Another culprit would be betel quid, commonly known as ‘paan’ or smokeless tobacco. Chewing them can definitely stain your teeth.

But more important than the staining aspect, is the fact that they are well known carcinogens. Now for those who do not know what a carcinogen is, it is any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer. Tobacco in all forms is an age old cause of oral cancer, the rate of which is alarmingly on the rise. I have come across patients who have got oral cancer at the usual location where the betel quid is placed. So the best approach would be to quit the use of tobacco altogether.

Other causes of stains on teeth are coffee, tea, wine and other dark colored beverages. Very high fluoride levels in drinking water and tooth paste can also cause stains on the developing teeth of children. It begins as hypoplasia of the enamel (seen as a white pigmentation on teeth). That is why children’s toothpaste is preferred for kids over the regular toothpaste, especially since smaller children have a tendency to swallow them.  Medicines like tetracyclines, if taken during pregnancy by the mother, can cause discoloration in the teeth of the child.

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Conspiracy theory: why we brush our teeth?

Our mouths are a natural home to millions of bacteria. These normally do not pose a problem, until one eats. What happens then is a long story.

First the bacteria start breaking down these food particles, sticking to our teeth. This leads to the formation of a thin film called Plaque (not visible to the naked eye). Plaque disclosing solutions are available in some pharmacies which will colour the plaque. This is help you know how efficient your brushing is.

Our saliva carries buffers, which maintains the pH in the oral cavity. Once plaque forms, saliva is unable to reach those areas of the tooth. As a result of the breakdown of food particles by bacteria, acids are formed, which will act on your teeth breaking down its structure. You end up with tooth cavities, which in turn, aid in lodging more food particles…and more break down by bacteria…..the process continues.

Tartar is what forms on your teeth over a period of time due to improper brushing. The plaque, when left overnight and then not removed by proper brushing, hardens and becomes calculus. Calculus by nature has a rough surface, and so indirectly it lodges more food (repeating the whole process over again). The resulting bacterial action in turn releases toxins causing the irritation & inflammation of the nearby gums (gingivitis)​. At this stage if you get a professional cleaning (scaling) done by a dentist or a dental hygienist, it should reduce the inflammation. But you would still need to maintain the health of your gums by proper brushing.