Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Tooth Stains

Jul 20, 2018 @ 02:01 PM — by Neil L. Starr, DDS
Tagged with: Cosmetic Dentistry

Discolored teeth and those treated with teeth whiteningMost people are looking to improve the appearance of the smile, but the characteristics that create the ideal smile are different for each patient. A lot is determined by the size and shape of the teeth, as well as the proportions and shape of the face.

However, one universal feature that most patients look for in an ideal smile is white teeth. Discoloration or tooth stains detract from the beauty of the smile and make the teeth look unhealthy. Cosmetic dentistry treatments address aesthetic flaws, such as discolored teeth, to give patients a more attractive smile.

To get optimal results, treatment has to be tailored to the specific needs of each patient, and, most importantly, to the type of discoloration that is present. Here, cosmetic dentist Neil L. Starr goes over the various treatment options for intrinsic vs. extrinsic tooth stains available to his Washington, DC patients.

Types of Tooth Stains

One thing that most dental patients do not realize is that all tooth stains are not the same. Before patients undergo cosmetic dentistry treatment to improve tooth color, they need to schedule a dental exam so that Dr. Starr can determine the types of stains that are present.

Tooth stains are broken down into two categories: intrinsic stains and extrinsic stains. Following is a brief explanation of each type of stain:

  • Intrinsic stains: Intrinsic stains are present on the dentin of the tooth, which is the hard layer of tooth structure that lies beneath the enamel. These types of stains are essentially permanent. They are caused by factors such as overexposure to fluoride, the use of certain medications, and severe tooth trauma.
  • Extrinsic stains: Extrinsic stains affect the tooth enamel, which is the outermost layer of the tooth structure. These stains are classified as superficial, because they can be treated fairly easily. Common causes of extrinsic stains include foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, colas, wine, and berries, as well as the use of tobacco products.

Treatment Options

Whether a patient suffers from intrinsic or extrinsic tooth stains, or a combination of both, there are cosmetic treatments that can improve the color of the teeth, and enhance the overall appearance of the smile. Following are the best treatment options for dental stains and discoloration:

  • Teeth whitening: Professional teeth whitening is fast, effective, and affordable. Within one treatment session, patients can erase stains and improve tooth color by up to eight shades. Unfortunately, teeth whitening is only effective on extrinsic stains.
  • Porcelain veneers: Porcelain veneers are thin fabrications that bond to the facial surface of the teeth. These natural-looking shells not only improve tooth color, but can also conceal flaws such as chips, cracks, misshapen teeth, or minor alignment problems. Since porcelain veneers sit over the natural teeth, they address extrinsic and intrinsic tooth stains.
  • Dental crowns: A dental crown is a dental restoration that sits over the natural tooth and completely conceals it. Dental crowns can improve the strength, health, and appearance of a tooth. Dental crowns are most appropriate for intrinsic stains that have been caused by tooth trauma.

Contact Us

If you would like to whiten your teeth and improve your smile, Dr. Neil L. Starr can help. Contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about the cosmetic dentistry treatments available at our practice. Dr. Starr will personalize a treatment plan to meet your unique needs and desires.

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