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I am a 28-year-old mother-of-two and I have developed discolouring on my teeth over the past couple of years - especially since the birth of my son three years ago. Why has this sudden change occured? I don't drink or smoke. Is there a treatment you could recommend to remove the staining?
Fathima J, via e-mail
It is very common to notice your teeth getting darker after having children. Often it is just spending time looking after your children and not noticing your own health and appearance. Suddenly when you do have time again you see your teeth have got darker. Even though you said you do not smoke or drink, there are lots of things that can cause your teeth to discolour. Herbal teas and iron supplements that you may have taken during pregnancy can contribute to this. Also, a mouthwash called Corsodyl can also cause your teeth to turn brown with long-term use.
A lot of these stains are superficial and one visit to your dental hygienist will leave your teeth whiter and sparkling again (from £60) but if the staining is deeper and your teeth are quite yellow, then tooth whitening would give an improved result. There are two types of options you may want to consider:
In-surgery whitening (also known as laser or power-bleaching)
Concentrated gels are applied directly to the teeth and accelerated with heat or light (laser/power). It involves placing the gel on the teeth and activating it with an LED light. The procedure usually takes around 45 minutes. It comes with custom-made whitening trays to maximise the whitening and for maintenance. This procedure will cost you around £500.
The gel is placed in a custom-made night-guard which is worn for 10-14 days. The period you wear the trays depends on the type and concentration of peroxide gel and can be anything from one hour to overnight. This treatment is usually available at your dentist for around £250.
These might seem pricey but they are very effective treatments. Don't use whitening toothpastes because most of them do nothing. Some of those bought abroad can actually harm your teeth as they contain acids/abrasives that can cause permanent damage. For whitening pastes to work they need to be in close contact with the tooth for at least 15 minutes and that cannot work with a toothpaste or mouthwash. Don't waste your money. Instead invest in a professional treatment and also buy toothpaste which contains fluoride and change your toothbrush every three months. Studies have shown that brushing twice a day for two minutes each time removes over a quarter more plaque than a 45-second brush (most people's average brushing time).
Until next week,
James Goolnik is the owner and founder of Bow Lane Dental Group, which he set up in the City of London in 2002 as a multi-specialist practice. Bow Lane was voted London practice of the year in 2006 and James himself has been voted the fourth most influential person in Dentistry in 2010. He is also the president of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the second largest cosmetic dental organisation in Europe. To ask James a question email: firstname.lastname@example.org