There is more than one kind of staining and they each need different treatment to get rid of the discoloration. That makes identifying the type of stains rather important!
What Types of Teeth Discoloration Are There?
There are three types of tooth staining and the differences arise from where the staining occurs.
1. Intrinsic Staining
Intrinsic discoloration occurs when the inner part of the tooth, the dentine, becomes yellow or darker in color. This change occurs in the following ways:
• Your teeth were exposed to high levels of fluoride in childhood.
• You were treated with tetracycline antibiotics in early childhood.
• Your mother was treated with tetracycline during the last four months of pregnancy.
• If only one or a few teeth are affected then it might be the result of a fall or other trauma that damaged your permanent teeth before they were fully formed.
• Internal bleeding in a tooth from trauma can cause discoloration.
• If you were born suffering a rare condition called dentinogenisis imperfecta then you will grow up with amber, gray or even purple discoloration.
2. Extrinsic Staining
Extrinsic staining occurs if the outer layer of the teeth become stained. The outer layer is called the enamel. While enamel is very hard it can be stained by certain foods or drinks and, often smokers get yellowed teeth. If you are a big coffee, red wine or cola drinker then you may well have stained teeth.
3. Age Related Staining
This type of staining is a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic staining and it happens because the dentine of our teeth tends to turn yellow as we age. Over time the outer layer of our teeth, the enamel, wears thinner, becoming more transparent allowing the color of the dentine to show through. Of course, as we age, it is more likely that the effect of our years of eating and drinking will show up as discolored enamel too.
How Can You Prevent, or Cure, Discoloration?
The main preventative treatment for discoloration is good dental hygiene. Clean your teeth after each meal, drink a glass of water after you drink wine, coffee or other heavily colored drinks. Intrinsic staining can be reduced by making sure that your dentist removes decaying dentine before it has a chance to discolor but teeth that have had root canal work often tend to darken anyway.
At home, you can remove extrinsic staining using home treatments like whitening strips, whitening toothpastes or, most successfully, gel based systems that work in a similar way to how dentists whiten teeth.
Intrinsic staining cannot be dealt with at home and needs a dentist’s attention. Dentists can bleach the dentine or fit veneers or crowns.
In summary, if your staining is to the enamel of your teeth then you can get back the whiteness yourself. If the staining is to the dentine inside your teeth then the outlook is not so good and is costlier.