Intrinsic And Extrinsic Dental Stains: The Difference Between These Two Common Issues

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Intrinsic And Extrinsic Dental Stains: The Difference Between These Two Common Issues

6 November 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

Are you constantly on the quest to achieve a beautiful, white smile, but can't seem to get rid of those unsightly stains on your teeth? Before you swear off coffee and invest in a pricey new toothbrush, it's important to know that although many stains are caused by food, beverages and tobacco, there are additional causes of stains, and these stains can be more difficult to treat. There are two types of tooth stains, extrinsic and intrinsic, and understanding which type you have will help you achieve the white smile you've always wanted:

What Exactly Are Extrinsic Stains?

If you have stains on your teeth, chances are they are extrinsic stains. Basically, this means the surface of your teeth is discolored. Extrinsic stains have several causes, including:

  • Drinking coffee, red wine and cola

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco

  • Consuming foods with dark pigments, such as beets, raspberries and blueberries

  • Consuming certain spices, including turmeric and curry

Luckily, there are several things you can do to correct extrinsic tooth stains. Maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine that includes twice-daily brushing and flossing is the easiest route. Additionally, having your teeth professionally whitened is also another easy way to get rid of these surface stains.

Quitting smoking and avoiding the above-mentioned foods and beverages are two ways you can prevent future extrinsic stains from occurring.

If you're plagued with extrinsic stains and also suffer from tooth decay or tooth loss, ask your dentist about the benefits of dental implants.

What Are Intrinsic Tooth Stains?

Unlike extrinsic stains, which only impact the outer enamel and in most cases are easily removed, intrinsic stains are more difficult to eliminate. This is because intrinsic stains occur in the dentin, which is the bony inner structure of the tooth.

There are several causes of intrinsic tooth stains, such as:

  • Overexposure to fluoride. For example, if you received an excessive amount of fluoride treatment during childhood, it could lead to intrinsic stains.

  • A childhood or adult trauma to your permanent teeth. An injury that led to small cracks in your tooth can allow bacteria to stain the dentin.

  • Certain medications, including tetracycline, can cause your teeth to turn a yellow-brown or gray color. According to WebMD, staining is most likely to occur if a child is given certain medications before the age of eight.

  • A rare genetic condition called Dentinogenesis Imperfecta (DI) can cause the dentin to turn a variety of colors, from gray to brown or even purple.

There are a number of ways your dentist can help you if you suffer from intrinsic stains. Having any teeth that feature stains fitted with crowns is one option. Additionally, your dentist can apply a tooth whitening material to your dentin during a root canal.

However, if the intrinsic stains are widespread, talk to your dentist about the benefits of dental implants.

Age-Related Tooth Discoloration

Many older individuals suffer from both intrinsic and extrinsic stains. The combination of stains caused by lifestyle choices, such as a lifetime of smoking or drinking coffee and red wine, and a natural yellowing of the dentin can lead to severely discolored teeth.

If you're older and are diagnosed with both intrinsic and extrinsic stains, talk to your dentist about your options. Your dentist might recommend fitting several of your teeth with crowns, or they might ask you to consider dental implants or dentures.

Dealing with stained teeth can be embarrassing, but don't let it stop you from smiling. With the help of your dentist, it is possible to pinpoint the cause of your tooth discoloration and create a plan to help you achieve the bright smile you've always wanted.