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Whiter Isn’t Always Healthier When It Comes to Teeth

A gleaming white smile is something we all aspire to. In fact, Americans spend over $1 billion a year on whitening treatments, strips, trays and toothpastes trying to get whiter teeth. But did you know that whiter teeth don’t always equate to healthier teeth? Here’s why.


White Is a Color, Not a Condition

White teeth look beautiful, but the color provides no indication about the health of your teeth. That’s because the color of your teeth comes from many factors that don’t necessarily affect the health of your teeth. For example, heavy coffee drinkers may be more likely to have dark stained teeth, despite taking excellent care of their oral hygiene. Red wine is also notorious for leaving behind stains, but drinking an occasional glass of red wine doesn’t mean your mouth is unhealthy.

That being said, people who consume acidic beverages like coffee and wine should be careful to brush their teeth properly to remove any excess acid on the teeth, but just because some discoloration is left behind doesn’t mean the teeth are in any way damaged.

You Can Still Have Cavities in White Teeth

Even the whitest teeth can have cavities lurking beneath the surface. If your diet consists of many light-colored foods, it can be easy to maintain naturally gleaming teeth. But failing to floss or properly brush can cause cavities in even the brightest of smiles. That’s because white teeth aren’t always an indication of how well you are brushing.

Discoloration Can Come From Many Sources

In addition to food and beverage stains, tooth discoloration can come from many sources, including medications, smoking and even enamel defects. In fact, some people have stained teeth from taking medications as a child - medications that, despite leaving behind stains, pose no risk to the health of the teeth.

An enamel defect is a birth defect that affects the tooth’s ability to grow enamel. As a result, teeth may appear yellow due to the missing white enamel that covers the teeth. The good news is that having an enamel defect doesn’t make your teeth any less healthy than having intact enamel, but it does mean you need to take extra diligent care of your teeth to help prevent cavities, something your enamel should have done for you. Thankfully, with proper care, teeth that are missing enamel can be just as healthy as teeth with enamel, and they can even be healthier than teeth with enamel if those teeth aren’t properly cared for!

White Isn't Guaranteed

People can go their entire life with white teeth, only to develop a coffee habit that turns the teeth permanently dark after just a few months. And someone with discolored teeth can undergo a whitening treatment and leave their dentist’s office with a glistening smile. But in both scenarios, the condition of their teeth and gums remains the same.

The moral of the story is, just because your teeth look clean and healthy doesn’t mean you should skip your dental exams and cleanings. Not only is it nearly impossible to tell what could be happening beneath the surface of your teeth by just observing them in the mirror, but even the cleanest-looking teeth can still have hard-to-clean plaque buildup around the edges, or a periodontal infection just below the gum line. 

So the next time you wistfully glance at your friend’s pearly-white teeth, remind yourself that comparing teeth is no indication of a healthy mouth, and for the best results, focus on the health of the whole mouth, not just the color of the teeth themselves.

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