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Enjoy a Bright Smile: Treating Different Types of Tooth Discoloration

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Nov 3, 2014

A woman with bright, white teeth smilingDental discoloration can develop for a number of reasons, ranging from the foods we eat and drink, to habits like smoking or improperly brushing. Because dental discoloration can occur from one or a combination of factors, treating stains successfully means catering treatment to the individual. For many dental discoloration sufferers, professional teeth whitening is highly effective at lifting stains and restoring a beautiful, white smile. Learn about the types of dental discoloration and treatment options in this overview from Jackson dentist Danny O'Keefe.

What Are the Different Types of Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration has many causes, which can lead to different types of tooth discoloration. Some discoloration is caused by the foods and drinks we consume, such as coffee or red wine. Not practicing proper oral hygiene can also discolor the teeth as a result of plaque and food particles remaining on the teeth. Other habits like smoking or any form of tobacco use can turn the teeth a yellowy-brown. These types of stains can be further categorized into extrinsic or intrinsic stains.

  • Extrinsic Stains: Extrinsic stains are the easiest to treat and can be thought of as surface stains. Extrinsic stains are characterized by an overall discoloration of the teeth, sometimes showing more discoloration at the gum line. Extrinsic stains are generally caused by food, drinks, and smoking.
  • Intrinsic Stains: Intrinsic stains are more difficult to treat because they are deep, often uneven stains. Intrinsic stains are characterized by discolored spots within a tooth. These spots reach all the way to the inner dentin layer of the tooth and are caused by enamel erosion, disease, trauma, or medication.

Dental Discoloration Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are treatment options to improve the brightness of even the most severe discoloration. Professional teeth whitening is typically successful at lifting years of extrinsic dental stains to reveal a rejuvenated smile. Some patients with severe extrinsic staining may not be able to obtain their desired level of brightness with whitening treatments. For such patients, dental bonding and porcelain veneers treatments may be a good alternative. Dental bonding and porcelain veneers can be custom colored to any shade of white and are placed on the front surface of the teeth to hide flaws like discoloration. Dental bonding and porcelain veneers are also the preferred choice to treating intrinsic stains. This is because intrinsic stains are too deep and irregular for whitening gels to reach. Once you've received whitening treatment, you can help keep your teeth their pearliest with these tips:

  • Brush and floss regularly: Practice proper oral hygiene habits, including brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day, to remove food particles and plaque that can yellow the teeth.
  • Limit coffee and red wine drinking: Coffee and red wine are two of the biggest culprits for dental staining. Limit consumption of red wine and coffee to keep your teeth from staining.
  • Use a straw: Drinking through a straw can help limit your teeth's contact with discoloring beverages.
  • Rinse with water after eating and drinking: Rinse your mouth with water after eating and drinking to help remove any food remnants. This is especially useful after drinking red wine or coffee.
  • Quit smoking: Cigarettes deposit nicotine and tar onto the teeth, causing severe discoloration (and a number of other health problems). Stop smoking to reduce your risk of developing dental stains.   

Schedule a Consultation

To find out which treatment is right for you, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. O'Keefe today.

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