When you smile, you might expect to see a stunning strip of flawless white teeth. But upon closer inspection, you may notice that your pearly whites are not nearly as striking as you may have hoped. In fact, some sections of your teeth look translucent, if not completely clear.

You take care of your teeth, and you assumed they were healthy. So why do your teeth look faded rather than vibrant?

Reasons for Translucency

The outer layer of your teeth, or enamel, is a semi-translucent material that gives your teeth part of their white colour. The secondary layer, or dentin, varies from off-white to yellow to grey, giving your teeth the rest of their colour. Since the dentin layer doesn't extend to the edges of your teeth, the tips may look clear, grey or even bluish white because of the enamel. 

But enamel can wear away for a variety of reasons, and in some cases, it never forms properly. Without enamel, your teeth may take on a translucent, dull or waxy appearance.

The following conditions could affect your enamel and its formation:

1. Celiac Disease

Many people assume that celiac disease only involves gastrointestinal problems whenever someone eats gluten. However, celiac disease also causes enamel to develop poorly. Those who suffer from the condition often have teeth with translucent portions, pitting or banding. Other oral symptoms may include dry mouth, recurrent canker sores or atrophic glossitis (a red, shiny tongue).

2. Enamel Hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia affects the teeth during development, and it can occur in primary teeth and permanent teeth. Individuals with this defect have a weak, thin or chalky enamel that gives their teeth a translucent appearance, and the little enamel they have wears away quickly. In a few instances, the tooth forms without any enamel, leaving the dentin completely exposed.

3. Acid Erosion

Teeth do best in a slightly alkaline environment. Experts have found that those with an oral pH level 7.0 or greater tend to have fewer cavities and less dental decay than those with lower pH levels. In fact, pH levels lower than 5.5 cause the enamel to demineralise.

When you regularly consume highly acidic foods, you increase your risk of enamel wearing away prematurely. Additionally, when you bleach your teeth to the point of wearing away your enamel, you may find yourself with translucent teeth.

Treatments for Translucency

While many people live with some degree of enamel loss, extreme cases may require treatment to give teeth adequate protection against bacteria. Additionally, a few individuals may also prefer treatment for cosmetic reasons, so they can enjoy a seemingly flawless smile and consistent colouring.

The following treatments can make your teeth look solid white once more:

1. Bonding

Dental bonding consists of a resin that your dentist colours to match your teeth. Your dentist can mould and shape the resin to cover imperfections and tooth discolouration.

During the bonding process, your dentist may lightly etch your teeth to give the resin a better hold, and then he or she will shape, cure and polish the bond so it looks as natural as possible.

2. Veneers

Veneers involve a hard porcelain shell that sits over the front of your teeth. Veneers easily hide gaps between teeth, misshapen teeth and tooth discolouration.

During the veneer process, your dentist will take a scan of your teeth to create a mould that best matches your teeth's natural shape and appearance. He or she may also remove a small part of your enamel to allow the porcelain to sit in perfect alignment with your other teeth.

3. Crowns

Depending on the damage to your enamel, your dentist may recommend a dental crown to restore and protect your teeth. These porcelain or ceramic crowns fit over the top of your teeth, and they provide strength and structure.

During the crown process, your dentist will take an impression of your tooth to create a mould for the crown. He or she will then place the crown over your prepared tooth and cement it into place.

Talk to Your Dentist About Your Concerns

If you worry about your teeth colour (or their lack thereof), talk to your dentist about your concerns. He or she can then assess the extent of your enamel loss and recommend the best approach for restoring your teeth to pristine condition.