Updated: 2 days ago
The entire first page of Google's SERP for translucent teeth are perpetuating incorrect information because transparent teeth are absolutely normal. Our long island city dentists pride ourselves in being mavericks so we'll explain what is actually true and what is false.
Table of contents:
WHY your teeth look translucent
Your teeth are actually naturally translucent and the translucency will increase or decrease depending on what type of lighting situation you are in. According to this one study your teeth will even decrease in transparency when they become dehydrated. They measured the transmission coefficient at 525 nm and found that it decreased from 0.482 to 0.313 mm after dehydration. Fortunately the transparency returned after the teeth were rehydrated with enough water.
Therefore, how see-through your teeth look will depend on the lighting and other external factors in your mouth. This means that there will be times when your teeth will look more translucent while other times it will look more opaque.
Anatomy of a tooth
In order to understand why the teeth look see-through in your mouth we need to review the overall anatomy of the crown of a tooth. Within the crown, the outermost layer is the enamel, followed by the dentin, and then the pulp at the innermost layer.
Enamel. This layer is actually semi-translucent so the color of the tooth, which you see actually does not come from the enamel. The color of your tooth mostly comes from the next layer, the dentin.
Dentin. This layer is more opaque and tends to be be more yellowish in color. Since the enamel is semi-translucent the color of the dentin shows through it.
Pulp. Due to the opaqueness of the dentin, whatever color the pulp is gets masked. If the dentin was see-through the tooth would actually look reddish due to the color of the pulp which contains the blood supply.
The picture above is a cross section of a tooth, which clearly shows how the outermost layer, the enamel is translucent and see-through looking. Especially if you compare it to the middle layer which is the dentin, which looks more opaque. Both layers contain the mineral hydroxyapatite but the enamel layer has more of it, 90%+ vs 45%.
To reiterate, your teeth are naturally transparent because the enamel layer is designed to be see-through in the first place. The level of transparency will also fluctuate depending on the lighting that you are in as well. Putting these factors together, they give the appearance of a clear tooth.
Alleged causes of transparent teeth
Supposedly there are a lot of claims that there are a variety of causes which can result in your teeth looking more transparent but most of them are incorrect. We will review all of these causes of transparency in your mouth and explain why some of them simply aren't true.
Acidic foods and drinks
Consuming a lot of acidic foods and drinks can cause enamel erosion, which will result in enamel loss over time. The reason is because the mouth is naturally at a neutral pH of around 7 but any type of food that will decrease the pH below that can potentially start eroding the enamel. An example of a highly acidic food, which can cause a lot of erosion would be biting into lemons. This unhealthy dietary habit can cause a lot of damage to your enamel and may result in complete enamel loss when given enough time.
The photo above shows what acidic foods can do to your tooth enamel. As you can see, once it gets eroded away it leaves the next layer underneath the enamel exposed which is the dentin. The dentin is more yellow and more opaque so acidic foods do NOT result in a more translucent tooth. Does that look transparent to you? Of course it doesn't so we will have to label this claim as false. You should still stop this unhealthy eating habit though.
This is a medical condition when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and potentially all the way up to your mouth as well. The stomach acids are even more potent than acidic foods but the effects will be similar albeit more severe than biting into lemons. Acid reflux will also cause enamel erosion but the location of enamel loss will be on the tongue side of your teeth as opposed to the cheek side for eating lemons. Since enamel erosion causing transparency for your teeth have already been debunked, this one is false as well.
This is an eating disorder where an individual strives to lose weight by forcing themselves to frequently vomit. The constant vomitting will bathe your tooth enamel in acid, which will also give a very similar effect to acidic foods and acid reflux. The only difference is that, this condition is voluntarily induced. Bulimia will lead to enamel erosion so we will call this one out on being false for causing clear teeth.
Many individuals with celiac disease have reported that they've noticed their enamel becoming more translucent over the years. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, enamel defects such as more translucent looking teeth have been found in people with celiac. In addition to that, there are many people on the Celiac forums that are reporting such findings as well.
Therefore we will have to say that your teeth may be more transparent if you have celiac disease and thus, this claim is true.
People with dry mouth may indeed notice a change in their teeth translucency especially if they aren't drinking enough water. According to the study referenced above, the amount of hydration or water level of your teeth does in fact affect the transparency levels. Therefore if you do have dry mouth, you should strive to drink more water.
This condition results in an enamel defect which occurs during the development of enamel. The ultimate result is the appearance of deficient enamel. Once again as we've stated before, loss of enamel will lead to more exposure of the dentin layer underneath, which is more yellow and opaque. Since a more opaque layer is showing through, the teeth will not become more translucent so this is a false claim.
The photo above shows varying severity levels of enamel hypoplasia. What it looks like is your teeth becoming more opaque white or a darker shade of brown as the condition becomes more severe. None of these teeth look see-through at all but instead they are just becoming more opaque and less aesthetic.
Pregnant women may experience morning sickness and find themselves frequently vomiting in the early mornings. The acids that come out of the stomach are highly acidic and can lead to enamel erosion. The outcome is similar to eating acidic foods, acid reflux, and bulimia so this condition will not lead to transparency of the teeth.
Nonetheless, this condition doesn't occur out of lifestyle choices but it can still damage your teeth. It is important to rinse your mouth out very well if you do vomit from morning sickness so that the acids don't stay on your enamel for too long. It is also equally important to not brush your teeth immediately after the vomiting because you don't want to rub the acid deeper into your enamel which may cause harm. You should rinse your mouth out with water and wait 30 minutes before brushing with your toothpaste of choice.
How to treat see-through teeth
Even though the translucency is natural, beauty is still in the eyes of the beholder so some individuals may not like the appearance of their teeth being more see-through. There are ways to improve the see-throughness of your teeth such as remineralizing them or choosing a healthier dietary lifestyle but if all else fails, your dentist can always intervene with dental procedures such as bonding, dental crowns, or veneers.
The teeth bonding, crowns, and veneers will fix the translucent teeth but they are irreversible procedures, which means that you cannot undo them once they are completed. You need to keep that in mind if you choose that option because all 3 of those treatments involve drilling into the teeth. Our dental experts merely wish that you choose the right dental treatment option which is the best for you.
The bonding process is very similar to having a tooth filling done because they both use the same composite resin filling material. The first thing your dentist would have to do is get your tooth nice and numb so that they can drill away a layer of the translucent enamel. Next they would bond in a filling material that is more opaque so that your teeth will look less see-through.
A crown would achieve the same result as the bonding but it is a less conservative technique because your dentist needs to shave down your tooth 360 degrees before placing a porcelain crown to cover it back up. This method is usually reserved for more severe cases that the dental bonding cannot fix.
A veneer is more conservative than a crown because it only shaves down the front part of the tooth. Therefore you can think of them as a half crown if you'd like. Due to the amount of drilling this procedure requires, it is also less conservative when compared to bonding. This is an option if you're trying to change more than just the translucency of your teeth such as wanting to change the entire shape of your tooth. The porcelain from the veneers will help mask the transparency.
Home remedies for clear teeth
In order to ensure that your teeth are as healthy as possible, you should use a toothpaste that has a remineralizing effect and also stick to a healthy diet. Doing both of these will minimize the chances of you having enamel problems, which may lead to clear teeth.
Remineralize teeth. If your teeth demineralizes, they will actually start to appear more opaque and chalky in appearance. The good news is that you can reverse the process by remineralizing them with a toothpaste that either contains fluoride or hydroxyapatite. Studies have shown that either ingredient has the potential to reverse the chalky appearance and also cavities as well. You can think of it as repairing the enamel once damage has been done to it.
Healthy diet. You want to stay away from acidic foods which may cause enamel erosion. You also want to consume a lot of foods that are rich in calcium and phosphate because those are the building blocks for remineralizing your teeth. A healthy diet is crucial to preventing possible enamel deficiencies due to inadequate nutrition.
Typically most of the conditions will not cause more see-throughness for your teeth but you still want to follow the recommendations above because they can prevent adverse effects for your teeth and your oral health. Whether or not they lead to increased translucency is up for debate but it never hurts to have healthier teeth.
Why you shouldn't fix the translucency
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and our long island city dentists believe that having slight translucency at the edge of your enamel is breathtakingly stunning. Our question to you is why would you want to fix it because having a rim of transparency at the edge of your teeth is actually a desired effect that your dentist purposefully tries to recreate with dental veneers and bondings.
Transparent edges of veneers
We will demonstrate to you why having a translucent edge for your dental veneer is more aesthetic than a purely opaque restoration.
The photo above is of a regular porcelain crown. Yes it does have a gap between the crown and the gum line but please ignore that. If you look at the appearance of the porcelain, it does not look see-through at all because it is completely opaque.
Now compare that to this photo above of dental veneers, which have a slight translucency to the edge of the porcelain. Notice how you can see-through the very tip of the porcelain? The translucent edge gives the tooth a more glassy and life-like appearance. It looks more natural and looks significantly more aesthetic than a crown with no transparency, which just looks flat. The glass-like appearance makes it pop out and just looks stunning.
Do you agree or disagree?
Nonetheless, your dentist WANTS to create that effect because it is more beautiful.
Transparent dental bonding
Aside from the veneers, your dentist has translucent shades of dental bonding and they will use it to recreate more life-like looking teeth. You may think that it is an undesirable effect but dental composite companies manufacture translucent shades. Here is a video showing how your dentist would use the transparent shade to recreate a tooth.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what causes translucent teeth because most of them actually cause the teeth to be more opaque instead. Aside from that, translucency in your mouth is a completely natural effect and it is actually more aesthetic to have it rather than to not have it. Most dentists who are worth one's salt will actually attempt to recreate the transparency because it creates a more life-like appearance for your dental restorations.
Nonetheless, if you disagree with having some slight see-through with your teeth you can always contact your dentist to have them cover it up with a more opaque material. We believe you'd be making the wrong decision though but the choice is yours.
This article is written and reviewed by our dentist in long island city, Dr David Chen.