Table of Content
How to Clean Teeth Stains From Smoking
by Dylan Hao |
While many teeth whitening products help reduce minimal surface stains, finding legitimate ways to remove stubborn discoloration from smoking can be more challenging.
Those stains could be deeply embedded in your enamel, depending on how long you’ve had the tobacco habit.
But we’re always up for a challenge, right?
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible; we have the info you need to overcome your obstacle and get whiter teeth, whether you’re still smoking or you’ve already quit.
Understanding the Problem: What Tobacco Does to Your Enamel
Let’s face it. No one picks up their first cigarette intending to destroy their previously healthy smile. Yet, that’s what happens when your initial adventurous experimentation leads to an addictive habit that lasts for years.
You already know the dangers of tobacco on your overall health, and we’re not going to harp on them here. Since you’re trying to find ways to clean up the effects of smoking from your smile, though, it’s essential to understand that side of the tobacco consequences.
Before we dig into the solution, let’s examine what exactly is going on in your mouth.
The Link Between Smoking and Your Smile
Smoking (or using any kind of tobacco) causes significant internal and external damage to your teeth, gums, and soft tissue.
You’re at a higher risk for mouth cancer, periodontitis and other gum diseases, tooth loss, and root decay. Still, if you take care of your teeth well with thorough daily oral health routines and regular check-ups, you can minimize this risk.
But the tar in the tobacco builds up on your teeth, no matter how much you brush, and gets into the pores of your enamel. A telltale sign of a smoker is yellowish-brown teeth with brown splotches on the enamel.
This discoloration comes from the nicotine and tar in the tobacco. It shows up on the surface of your teeth quickly and embeds deep in the enamel of long-term heavy smokers.
Gum Disease and Smoking
In addition to discolored teeth, smokers are more susceptible to gum disease, a serious infection of the gums that damages the mouth’s soft tissue.
When you smoke, it produces bacterial plaque. Everyone has this problem to some degree because plaque also comes from eating, drinking, and saliva production. But with a good oral health routine, non-smokers scrub this plaque off twice a day before it has a chance to get up underneath the gums.
Smokers have the typical leftover food particle build-up and the excess plaque from tobacco, bringing on gum disease faster than in non-smokers.
On top of this, smoking reduces oxygen in the bloodstream. Oxygen is necessary to heal infections in the body. Without optimal circulation, your gums can’t recover from the damage. The cycle continues to worsen the longer you expose your body to tobacco.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
Smoking is almost always connected to lung and throat cancer. But while discussing the damage to your mouth, we must bring up oral cancer, too.
Nearly 90% of people who get mouth cancer are smokers. As a tobacco user, your risk of developing this deadly disease increases by ten times over non-smokers.
This statistic includes all tobacco use, including cigars, chewing tobacco, and pipe tobacco. Each of these products contains dangerous toxins, carcinogens, and nicotine.
Reducing the Damage
If you’re a new smoker, it’s not too late to prevent stains. We’ll show you how to do this next, and then delve into how to remove those stubborn discolorations if you’ve been smoking long enough that the tar is in your enamel.
Preventing Tobacco Stains
Keeping a white, healthy smile is obviously important to you. The best way to ensure that happens is to quit smoking as soon as possible. It’s better for your overall health and your wallet!
Still, there are some ways to prevent tobacco stains while you’re trying to quit. As long as you keep up with your regular daily brushing and flossing habits and use a toothpaste brand designed for fighting tar and nicotine, you have a stronger chance at avoiding the dreaded “smoker teeth.”
Between brushings, chew sugar-free whitening gum. This has two main benefits:
The whitening agent fights the plaque and tartar buildup on the surface of your enamel, and the act of chewing gum can help deter nicotine cravings.
The fewer cigarettes you smoke, the less additional damage is done to your teeth and gums.
Additional Prevention Tips
Tobacco isn’t the only thing that stains your teeth. Try to avoid other known staining agents, including (but not limited to):
- Tea, coffee, and anything that contains tannins
- Red wine
- Fruit juice, especially citrus fruits
- Tomato-based sauces
- Curry (Turmeric and curcumin are strong stainers.)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Soy sauce
Trying to avoid discoloration is a good goal, but while you’re on that path, you can also focus on better oral health.
As a smoker, you’re at higher risk for other dental issues, including cavities and tooth decay. Be sure to visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams to monitor any potential problems before they become big — read: painful and expensive — ones!
Removing Light Stains
Maybe it’s too late for prevention, and you already have light nicotine stains on your teeth. If you’re no longer using tobacco products, removing that surface discoloration should be somewhat simple.
The longer you smoke, the harder this becomes. For now, some over-the-counter products might be all you need to do the trick!
A robust whitening toothpaste with baking soda or hydrogen peroxide has enough of an abrasive in it to scrub away common surface stains. Whiteners designed for smokers often have the added ingredient of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, a natural method used to remove plaque and improve gum health.
Whitening strips and gel kits can also eliminate some of the surface discoloration caused by tobacco and other staining agents. These products contain peroxide or bleach, whitening teeth by bleaching any color from the enamel. The strips and trays are usually made from a plastic called polyethylene.
As long as you follow the instructions on the package, these tools are safe and effective for light stain removal. However, when the peroxide or bleach is in contact with your enamel and soft tissue for too long, it can damage the area.
Increased gum or tooth sensitivity after using a whitening strip, gel, or toothpaste is common, but it should go away quickly. If it continues, stop using the product and contact your dentist, as you may have something more serious going on under the surface.
Removing Stubborn Stains
Long-term smokers, especially those with coffee/tea and other staining agent habits, tend to have more stubborn stains. For you, skipping the light methods and moving straight to a professional whitening treatment is the way to go.
You have a few options in this area, including custom whitening treatments with professional-grade ingredients and dental treatments that cover the damage.
Let’s break down the two and discuss the pros and cons of each and their effectiveness on smoking stains.
Custom Whitening Treatments
Unlike OTC whitening strips and gels, custom-made whitening trays are designed especially for your mouth's unique nooks and crannies. This ensures the bleaching agent stays where it’s supposed to go: on your enamel and off the sensitive soft tissue.
Picture these trays like a mouthguard for sports, but much thinner. The tray slides over your upper and lower teeth, with a strong whitening gel covering the enamel. You’ll leave them in place for a designated time, then remove the tray and rinse your mouth.
Custom whitening gel kits can be made at the dentist’s office or through a mail-order kit using professionals like us at JS Dental Lab.
When you use our at-home treatment, you get to skip the extra costs that come with the office visits at the dentist.
You’ll have an impression of your teeth made using a special putty that hardens into a mold. The manufacturer then creates a whitening tray out of that mold, so any crooked teeth, gaps, cracks, and other slight imperfections are covered by the gel.
When you receive your tray, you’ll place the bleaching gel into the whitening tray and slide the appliance over your teeth. Wear them as directed, and you should notice whiter enamel within one to two weeks. (Note that the level of whitening and time it takes to get there will depend on how severe your discoloration is.)
Custom trays are preferred by most people over OTC because they’re more comfortable. Since they’re designed for your specific teeth, they fit snugly and capture the surface of all your enamel, making them more effective.
The tray fits as it’s supposed to, minimizing contact with your gum line and reducing the chance of discomfort and sensitivity from gum irritation.
That’s not to say even top-of-the-line professional teeth whitening kits won’t produce minor sensitivity. Smokers often have damage underneath the enamel, and adding a bleaching agent to the mix is bound to irritate those already inflamed nerves.
While using a whitener, try to avoid contact with extreme temperatures (cold and hot foods and drinks) and consider using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
Long-term smokers often have one or two teeth that are significantly darker than the rest. These might be yellow, brown, or — occasionally — even black.
Whitening treatments rarely work well when the staining is this far into the enamel. But don’t give up hope! Some marvels of cosmetic dentistry can bring your beautiful smile back.
Veneers are tiny, shell-like coverings that bond to the front surface of your teeth. Your dentist creates these out of high-quality ingredients, shading them specifically to match the rest of your smile.
Dental veneers are one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the world, used to cover up many imperfections. If you have a gap in your smile, cracks, chips, or discolored teeth, a veneer could help!
Smokers with specific teeth they want to camouflage can benefit from these dental restorations. However, dentists will only offer them to those with good oral hygiene and no serious health issues like cavities or gum disease.
Talk to your dentist if you’re interested in the various types of veneers that might give you back your pre-smoker and yellow teeth smile.
Another alternative whitening procedure in cosmetic dentistry is composite, or dental, bonding.
This in-office procedure includes the application of a tooth-colored resin to the stained area. Dentists also use it to change the appearance of a tooth’s shape or size.
The resin used for composite bonding is the same material often selected to fill cavities. As with veneers, dental bonding is a very common procedure.
The main difference is that with veneers, the material bonds to the front surface of the teeth, requiring the removal of enamel from the natural tooth involved. This isn’t reversible, and the veneer can last 10-20 years.
Dental bonding is reversible, with no enamel removal necessary. The dental professional uses the resin to “paint” your tooth’s surface after roughening it up to open the pores.
After the resin is applied and hardens, the tooth is polished. The whole procedure takes about 30-60 minutes per tooth, and may require occasional touch-ups as more tooth discoloration occurs over time.
Whether you’re working on preventing or removing stains caused by smoking, you have options. From at-home whiteners and professional kits to the dentist’s chair, you don’t have to deal with the brown spots and stained teeth that come so often with smoking.
Schedule and attend those regular dental cleanings, brush and floss your teeth regularly, use mouthwash, and try to keep the cigarettes to a minimum.
The better your oral hygiene, the more you can prevent deep-set tobacco stains (as well as bad breath and other dental problems).
For stubborn stain removal without the hefty price tag of a dentist’s office tray, check out our premium custom-made whitening kits at JS Dental Lab. You get all the benefits of a dentist’s kit with more money in your pocket!