Teeth can start to look like they are fading, becoming transparent or translucent. What is this? What causes it, and how can it be treated?
Why do my teeth look translucent?
Our teeth are made up of two layers. The core is known as dentin; it is the second layer. It can look yellow, sometimes, off white or greyish colour. It is then protected by the outer coating, which is called dental enamel. This is the outer shell of our teeth. It is partially translucent. Together the two layers combined are what make our teeth white.
The dental enamel is susceptible to wearing off, which then leads to the teeth looking transparent. There are several causes of this wearing off of your teeth’ protective shell, including Celiac Disease, Acid erosion and Enamel Hypoplasia.
Celiac Disease and Translucent Teeth
People suffering from the condition known as Celiac disease usually have translucent teeth as a symptom. This disease causes gastrointestinal problems or affects other organs and body functions. The dentist is usually the one to detect this condition during a routine dental exam. A translucent tooth due to Celiac disease is more common in children and wearing off of dental enamel can be the only symptom to point to this condition.
Unfortunately, the translucent teeth caused by Celiac disease are permanent. The teeth become discoloured, yellow, sometimes with brown spots and enamel does not form properly. In other cases, there is severe loss of enamel. The teeth usually affected are the molars and incisors.
Acid Erosion Causes Translucent Teeth
In cases where teeth are exposed to high acid levels, especially when pH levels are as low as 5.5, this is likely to cause dental enamel erosion. Studies have shown that teeth thrive at a pH level of 7, and this causes less dental problems. When the environment is highly acidic, it begins to eat away at the enamel leaving the teeth translucent.
Acidic erosion can be caused by:
One overindulges in sodas or soft drinks that are high in phosphoric and citric acids.
Fruit juices can be very acidic, even though they seem healthy.
Having little saliva or what is called dry mouth can cause erosion.
A diet high in sugar and starch can cause acid erosion.
Acid reflux primarily, GERD conditions, when a person throws up a lot due to being bulimic or an alcoholic.
A person is suffering from Gastrointestinal problems.
Certain medications are acidic such as vitamin C tablets, antihistamines and aspirin.
One can inherit conditions that lead to translucent teeth.
When one grinds their teeth, it causes friction, and wear and tear.
Stress raises acid levels in the body.
Enamel Hypoplasia is a condition that attacks teeth during their development stage. It is usually an inherited condition and starts right from baby teeth but can affect permanent teeth. The enamel on the teeth is very thin, almost non –existent, and very vulnerable to wear off, leading to translucent teeth. In some cases, it has been seen the teeth will develop with no enamel at all, leading to easy decay.
Treatment of translucent teeth
Not all translucent teeth are severe; some patients can live with it. However, some are concerned with their look and want to maintain the pearly whites, and those who have severe cases can rest assured that there is treatment available for them.
This procedure is done by the dentist using a resin to colour the teeth and is bonded using a special light that hardens the resin. Dental bonding is considered cosmetic because apart from staining the teeth white, it shapes and polishes them. It can also repair chipped and cracked teeth.
Composite Veneers or Porcelain
These are two excellent options and work well for treatment of translucent teeth. They only differ in how they are put in, how long it takes, durability and cost. Composite veneers, involve using a resin that has been engineered to attach to the teeth’ surface. This is a less time-consuming procedure; it is durable but does not last as long as porcelain veneers, nor does it look good. It is, however, more affordable.
Porcelain veneers cost more money, but they look so much better and do not stain. They are made of porcelain shells that are stuck to the surface of the teeth. They are permanent and last much longer than composite veneers. They can also not be done in one sitting; you would need to visit the dentist at least twice until it is all done.
This procedure is used to restore the affected tooth and to protect it from environmental factors. They add more symmetry to the tooth and strengthen them. The crowns are made from a mould of your teeth to make the right size and shape. The crown is then attached or cemented onto your teeth. Dental crowns are made from various materials such as stainless steel, metal alloys, porcelain, resin or ceramic.
This treatment is mainly for those who have enamel hypoplasia. An acid is used to polish the affected tooth and remove the small amount of tooth enamel. This eliminates the discolouration. The cream is then applied to bring out the whiteness of the teeth. This is not the most popular form of treatment.
How to Prevent Translucent Teeth
It may seem that it is impossible to prevent translucent teeth, but this is not true. There are some active measures one can take to help prevent the wearing off of dental enamel. This is by reducing the acidic beverages such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and food that raise the body’s acidic levels. In the case that you have a lot of acidic food and beverages, rinsing with water helps to balance the pH levels again. Rinsing the mouth with water and brushing teeth after vomiting or when you have acid reflux can also go a long way in preventing translucent teeth.
Watching your teeth become transparent can be a disturbing feeling, but it is always better to seek help from a qualified dentist who will give you the right advice and provide the assistance needed.