When it comes to the way we look, there are few things more stressful than a smile we’re not happy with. After all, your smile is meant to show you at your best. When you’re meeting new people, going on a date, interviewing for a job, or even just hanging out with your friends, you rely on your smile to communicate a positive impression of who you are.

Today, the stresses around having a “good smile” have grown as we take and post more pictures of ourselves than ever before. If you’re not happy with your smile, it’s just not pictures at holidays and get togethers where you have to see it looking back at you. There are the day’s selfies, your picture in the top corner of the video call, and the photos your friends share online.

For most people, the biggest anxiety they have around their smile is the color of their teeth. Many of us have a shining white ideal in our heads that may border on the edges of what’s actually attainable without some photo or video editing software. Regardless, with every shade further from white we get, our anxiety grows.

What causes teeth to discolor?

Your teeth are covered by a thin, protective layer known as enamel. Beneath this is another later known as dentin. Dentin is more yellow in color than enamel, and it also absorbs color from foods and beverage more readily. In addition to dentin, plaque and tartar also take on stains more easily than enamel.

By failing to properly care for your teeth, two things happen: Enamel erodes and cracks, and plaque and tarter build up. With that, your teeth are, unfortunately, primed and ready to take on colors other than pearly white. But that’s the underlying cause. What are some of the specific things that stain our teeth?


Simply put, sugar eats away at enamel. The more sugary substances your teeth come into contact with, the more your enamel is getting bombarded. A lot of folks point to colorful, sugary drinks like sports drinks or dark soda when listing common culprits of teeth staining. But even lighter drinks like clear soda are full of enamel-attacking sugar.

Just because fruits are healthy doesn’t make the sugars in berries and fruit juices any better for your tooth enamel, so be wary of them as well. Does that mean you should skip that healthy smoothie? Absolutely not. But drinking it through a straw, or following it up with a quick tooth brushing—or even just a rinse with some water—can go a long way toward protecting your teeth.


Much like sugars, acids wear away at tooth enamel. Again, fruits can be a common culprit here, especially more acidic fruits like lemons. Wine is another acidic beverage that coats the teeth. And again, while red wine may get the bulk of the blame due to its darker color, white wine still contains acid that negatively affects tooth enamel.


Tannins are yet another organic compound that erodes enamel. Tannins are in wine, as well as coffee and tea. And you guessed it: Even if they’re lightly colored, they can still do damage to the color of your teeth. While coffee is often thought of as a worse offender than tea when it comes to tooth discoloration, many teas actually have a more severe discoloration effect than coffee.

As we said earlier, frequent brushing and rinsing, as well as drinking through a straw more often, can help cut down on the staining effects of some of our favorite foods and beverages. But if you’re reading this article and saying to yourself, “I wish I’d known this years ago!,” fear not. If your teeth are not as white as you would like, teeth whitening here at Carol E. Follette DDS will have you smiling proudly in selfies in no time. And guess what? If you’re new to our office, download our new patient special for a complimentary teeth whitening kit.



The key elements of effective oral health care are comprehensive dental exams and professional dental cleanings every six months. While most patients of the Santa Monica family dentist are aware of the importance of these appointments, but may not know exactly what is involved in a comprehensive dental exam and cleaning.

The following is a brief summary of the steps that we take during your six-month checkups.

Comprehensive Dental Exam

A comprehensive dental exam will be performed at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:

  • Check for tooth decay: All tooth surfaces should be checked for decay or changes since the last visit.
  • Examine existing restorations: Check condition of current fillings, crowns, etc.
  • Gum disease evaluation: It is essential to check the gums and bone surrounding the teeth for signs of periodontal disease.
  • Digital x-rays: This step is essential for detecting decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. Digital x-rays will also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Your dentist will check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) will be performed by your dentist or a skilled dental hygienist. Appointments for cleanings include:

  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky film that coats your teeth and is made up of bacteria, food debris, and saliva. If plaque isn’t removed with oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings, it continues to feed on the sugars in your mouth and produces acid that attacks dental and causes cavities.
  • Removal of calculus (tartar): When plaque remains on teeth, it hardens and forms a hard deposit known as tartar or calculus. Since tartar is calcified and adheres to the teeth above and below the gum line, it can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Teeth polishing: Polishing is the final step in the process of your professional cleaning and removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.

Please call your Santa Monica Family Dentist

If it’s time for your next routine exam and cleaning, please call Dr. Carol Follette to arrange an appointment.



Do you brush and floss routinely, avoid sugary foods and drinks, and see your dentist for scheduled appointments but still get cavities? Do you have friends who don't follow healthy oral habits and don't deal with tooth decay and wonder if there's any fairness left in the world?

Your Santa Monica family dentist understands your frustration! How is it possible to take care of your teeth and still get cavities? It turns out that your genes may be responsible.

It's Not Just about Bacteria

Keeping your mouth free of harmful bacteria is essential if you want a healthy smile, but another significant factor is the resistance of your teeth. A study conducted by two researchers from the University of Zurich shows a definite condition between defects in the gene complex that's responsible for the formation of tooth enamel and the rate of caries (cavities).

What This Means for You

There's a lot more study that needs to be conducted in this area to understand how these findings can change the way we approach oral health care. But whether or not your genetic makeup puts you at higher risk for tooth decay, there are always steps you can take:

  • Make sure your oral hygiene's up to par – Brushing and flossing for decades does not make you an expert, and if you aren't doing it properly, you may not be getting the benefit of your efforts. Talk to your hygienist to "brush up" on your oral hygiene for the best results.
  • Keep up with routine dental appointments – Prevention is the key to enjoying good oral health, making semi-annual exams and cleanings with your family dentist crucial. Decide if you'd rather take a couple hours out of your week now or wait until you need costly and complex treatment later!
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink – Certain foods, especially those high in sugar and acid, are very damaging and weaken dental enamel which can lead to cavities.

Please Call to Arrange an Appointment

Your family dentist can offer you many helpful tips for keeping your smile healthy, regardless of genetics. If you would like to learn more, please call the Santa Monica family dentist to arrange a convenient appointment.