Stains Aren't the Same: Different Types of Tooth Discoloration

Aug 15, 2016 @ 06:34 PM — by Neil L. Starr, DDS

A comparison of tooth colors and stainsWe help the people of Washington, DC smile with renewed confidence. This means offering restorative care to treat tooth decay and gum disease as well as cosmetic dentistry to improve the appearance of your smile.

Tooth discoloration and dental stains are the most common reason why people feel self conscious about their smiles. Let's take a moment to consider what causes tooth discoloration and how it can be treated.

Three Types of Tooth Discoloration

There are three kinds of tooth discoloration:

  • Extrinsic dental stains
  • Intrinsic dental stains
  • Age-related dental stains

Let's take a moment to consider each of these individually.

About Extrinsic Dental Stains

Extrinsic dental stains are the types of stains that people are most familiar with. Extrinsic dental stains originate at the surface layer of the teeth and the penetrate down into the tooth structure.

Causes of Extrinsic Dental Stains

Common causes of extrinsic dental stains include:

  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Red wine
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Beets
  • Berries
  • Colas

Treatment Options for Extrinsic Dental Stains

The ideal treatment for extrinsic dental stains typically involves teeth whitening. During teeth whitening treatment, bleaching agents are used to brighten the stained portions of the tooth structure. For serious extrinsic dental stains, teeth whitening may be limited in effectiveness. In such cases, the use of porcelain veneers may be preferable, allowing dentists to mask the stain from view.

About Intrinsic Dental Stains

Intrinsic dental stains are common as well, though not considered as often as extrinsic dental stains. Intrinsic originate within a tooth's internal structure rather than on the surface of the tooth like an extrinsic dental stain.

Causes of Intrinsic Dental Stains

Common causes of intrinsic dental stains include:

  • Injury to the tooth
  • Overexposure to fluoride as a child
  • Use of tetracycline as a child
  • Dentinogenesis (a rare genetic condition)

Treatment Options for Intrinsic Dental Stains

When it comes to treating intrinsic dental stains, teeth whitening is not a viable option. The dental bleaching agent will only be able to penetrate so far into the tooth, and certainly will not be able to reach the central portion of the tooth structure where the staining originates. The best option is the use of dental bonding and porcelain veneers to mask the discoloration from view.

About Age-Related Dental Stains

Age-related dental stains are a type of tooth discoloration that occurs with advanced age. The wear and tear on the teeth over time can take its toll on the appearance of your smile. In essence, age-related tooth discoloration is a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic staining.

Causes of Age-Related Dental Stains

Since age-related dental stains are a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration, the causes are essentially all of the above.

Treatment Options for Age-Related Dental Stains

Given that age-related dental stains are both intrinsic and extrinsic in nature, the common treatment for these kinds of stains typically involves a mix of teeth whitening and procedures that conceal stains from view. The best approach can be determined during the consultation process.

Learn More About Tooth Discoloration and Stains

For more information about tooth discoloration and how we can effectively treat the problem, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. Our team is here to help you smile with renewed confidence.

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