Can Dental Sealants Prevent Stains And Discoloration On Teeth?
What Causes Tooth Staining and Discoloration?
- Food and drinks: Coffee, tea, red wine, and dark berries all contain pigments that can stain your teeth. When you consume these foods and drinks, the pigments can attach to the enamel of your teeth, causing them to appear darker.
- Tobacco products: Smoking and chewing tobacco are leading causes of tooth stains. Tobacco contains tar and nicotine, which both stain teeth yellow or brown. Smoking can also dry out your mouth, which can lead to plaque buildup, which can also cause stains.
- Poor oral hygiene: When you don't brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque can build up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can cause cavities, gum disease, and tooth stains. Over time, plaque can harden into tartar, which is even more difficult to remove and can cause even darker stains.
- Enamel defects: Thin or weak enamel is more transparent, allowing dentin to show through with a yellow tint. Dentin is a layer of tissue beneath the enamel that is naturally yellow. When the enamel is thin or weak, the dentin becomes more visible, giving the teeth a yellow appearance.
- Dental trauma: Fractured or injured teeth can die and change color. When a tooth dies, the blood supply is cut off, and the tooth becomes discolored. This can give the tooth a gray, brown, or black appearance.
- Medications: Some prescription drugs can cause metallic stains or tooth darkening. For example, tetracycline antibiotics can cause brown stains on teeth, especially in children whose teeth are still developing. Other medications that can cause tooth discoloration include doxycycline, minocycline, chlorhexidine mouthwash, and antihistamines.
- Fluorosis: Overexposure to fluoride can impact enamel mineralization and whiteness. Fluoride is a mineral added to drinking water and toothpaste to help prevent cavities. However, too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is a condition that causes white or brown spots on teeth. In severe cases, fluorosis can cause teeth to become brown or yellow.
- Aging: Teeth naturally yellow slightly over time as enamel thins and dentin show through more. As we age, the enamel on our teeth becomes thinner, allowing more of the yellow dentin to show through. This is why many people notice that their teeth become yellower as they age.
Can Dental Sealants Prevent Stains?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted onto the chewing surfaces of back teeth. They aim to seal out plaque, food, and germs to prevent cavities in pits and grooves. However, sealants also act as a barrier against stains by blocking pigments and chromogens from seeping into porous areas of teeth.
Studies show that sealants reduce stain absorption on occlusal surfaces by up to 70% compared to unsealed teeth. Sealants also appear to slow the progression of fluorosis staining in children. They protect against external discoloration factors and help maintain the original underlying tooth shade.
Sealants for Stain Prevention
Dental sealants aren't just for kids! Adults can also benefit from sealants to prevent cavities and combat stains. While sealants primarily target the back teeth, adults also get tiny sealants applied to the front for aesthetic purposes.
These ultra-thin front tooth sealants provide a glossy, tooth-colored coating that creates a smooth surface to help resist pigment absorption and plaque buildup. Though not a substitute for professional teeth whitening, they add a layer of protection against new stains, especially after whitening treatment, to help maintain brightness.
Sealants vs. Other Preventive Dental Treatments
How do sealants compare to other preventive dental treatments like fluoride and varnish for stain prevention?
Stained, yellowed teeth don't have to be inevitable. Dental sealants offer a barrier against tooth discoloration by blocking external pigments and chromogens found in food, drink, and tobacco. Sealant placement in childhood and adolescence prevents early staining patterns from forming and becoming more ingrained. Adults also benefit from sealants for protection against new stains. Though dental sealants have some limitations, they remain a proven method for preventing unsightly tooth discoloration.
- Fluoride: Topical fluoride strengthens enamel against decay but does not provide a physical barrier against stains. Ingesting too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis staining.
- Varnish - Dental varnish releases fluoride and adds temporary protection against sensitivity. But it does not block stains like solid sealant coatings.
- Sealants: Dental sealants are bonded to the tooth surface to seal out dietary and bacterial stains. They provide the best stain prevention benefits.