Why Older People’s Teeth Tend To Lose Their ‘Sparkle’

And what your Canterbury dentists can do to help regain it….

White teeth and smileGrowing older and the changes that come with it, are something that, with a bit of luck, we will all have to deal with. Some of these changes can be positive, such as having a sense of what we want from life. If we are on a career path or have healthy savings, we are also more likely to be able to do some things that we couldn’t achieve when we were younger or had young families.

Ageing does come with it’s ‘costs’ though, and we will all notice changes in our appearance as the years go by. The first signs of grey hairs and a few wrinkles on our face offer a clue that we are not as young as we once were, however we might feel in ourselves.

One sign of ageing that we probably don’t notice as much ourselves as others do when they see us, is the colour of our teeth. As we get older, our teeth tend to lose the whiteness of previous years and can appear to be ‘yellowed’ and lacking in that brightness they had before.

What causes this discolouration?

It is a common misconception that the only reason that teeth become discoloured is due to staining. It is true that this can cause significant issues and is a common cause, but it is not the only one. Ageing will also cause this, but whereas most staining takes place on the enamel surface of our teeth, the darkening in colour that we experience as we get older, occurs in the layer below that.

The dentin layer

Beneath the hard protective enamel exterior of our teeth lies a softer and more porous region known as the dentin area. This is a darker yellow coloured material that also allows sensations such as hot and cold to travel through it to the nerves in the root canals of our teeth. From a dental point of view, this is why we need to keep the enamel strong and healthy as once the dentin layer is exposed, bacteria can enter and lead to tooth decay and root canal infections.

Even with healthy enamel though, this area of the tooth starts to darken as we get older and this will start to show through the translucent enamel layer. Erosion of the enamel may cause this to happen earlier than if we have kept it healthy, and of course, any additional staining of the enamel will make the appearance of our teeth much worse.

What can we do about it?

We should always look after our teeth well and keep the enamel healthy. If we avoid tooth staining substances such as tobacco, red wine, tea etc, this will help to minimise surface staining. No amount of brushing though can improve the discolouration that is caused by the darkening of the dentin. To restore your teeth to their former whiteness, a cosmetic dental treatment will be necessary.

Teeth whitening

The teeth whitening procedure provided at Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic is a well established and successful method of improving the whiteness of your teeth by several shades.

It should be noted that this is much more effective than any toothpaste that claims to do the same. The reality is that these products are strictly controlled and the quantity of the active whitening ingredient in them is strictly limited. They may be OK for ‘topping up’ your whiteness following a professional teeth whitening treatment, but if your teeth are stained or discoloured from ageing, you are unlikely to notice much difference at all.

Performed by trained clinicians, a teeth whitening procedure is a non-invasive and fast acting way to really improve the whiteness of your teeth. It does this by not only removing surface staining, but, in effect, ‘bleaching’ the darkened inner part of the tooth. This treatment should cause no pain or discomfort, although a few patients may experience a slight increased level of sensitivity following it. In the cases where this does occur, this will typically only last for a few days before returning to normal.

For older patients who have perhaps been long term smokers or who have teeth that have become badly stained or chipped, another option is dental veneers. However, this is a more permanent solution usually requiring some surgery to prepare the surface of the teeth in readiness for the veneers to be fitted.

However old you are, discoloured teeth can spoil an otherwise nice smile and can also make you look older than you really are. If you would like to talk to one of our Canterbury dentists to see how we can help you address this to have whiter, brighter teeth, please call Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic on 01227 463529.