Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration: Not All Stains Are the Same

By Ettienne Van Zyl on December 05, 2014

A woman smiling in a bright, white roomAt the Van Zyl Center for Advanced Dentistry in Collierville, we always strive to make patients have the best looking smiles possible. This usually means offering advanced teeth whitening options to lift stains and brighten smiles. Not all stains are created equal, however. With that in mind, we'd like to consider different kinds of dental stains and how they can be treated.

About Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Extrinsic tooth discoloration refers to stains that occur on the enamel layer of the teeth, which is the outermost part of the tooth structure. This is the kind of tooth discoloration that most people are probably familiar with.

Common Causes of Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Some of the most common causes of extrinsic dental stains include the following:

  • Tobacco products
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Soft drinks
  • Blueberries
  • Curries
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Teeth Whitening Options for Extrinsic Dental Stains

There are many different cosmetic dentistry options available for the treatment of dental stains. Teeth whitening is one of the more common treatment options. This involves the application of a bleaching agent to the teeth, whitening the tooth structure itself in order to make the stains disappear.

If the extrinsic stains are significant and/or deeply set, a porcelain veneer or dental bonding may be more ideal. Both of these mask the stain from view rather than bleaching the tooth structure.

About Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Intrinsic tooth discoloration refers to stains that originate from within the tooth structure itself. This is a kind of tooth discoloration that not as many people are aware of since it involves different matters than the widely known causes of dental stains.

Common Causes of Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Some of the most common causes of intrinsic tooth discoloration include the following:

  • Internal trauma to the tooth
  • Use of tetracycline at an early age
  • Overexposure to fluoride at an early age
  • Congenital tooth discoloration/dentinogenesis imperfecta (rare)

Teeth Whitening Options for Intrinsic Dental Stains

Since intrinsic dental stains occur within the tooth itself, the use of teeth whitening treatment is not ideal. Bleaching agents can only penetrate so far into the tooth structure.

The ideal treatment option for intrinsic dental stains tends to be porcelain veneers and dental bonding. As noted above, these treatments mask stains, making them more ideal when the discoloration occurs below the surface.

Age-Related Tooth Discoloration: Mixing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors

In addition to extrinsic and intrinsic dental stains, there are also age-related dental stains. This form of tooth discoloration means a mix of internal and external factors, which makes sense given the amount of wear and tear your teeth may go through over the years.

Teeth Whitening Options for Age-Related Dental Stains

Since there are extrinsic and intrinsic factors at play with age-related tooth discoloration, a combination of teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, and dental bonding tend to be the best method of addressing these kinds of stains. Sometimes tooth-colored dental crowns may be considered if the discolored tooth also requires significant restoration as a result of injury or decay.

Schedule a Consultation at the Van Zyl Center for Advanced Dentistry

If you would like to learn more about treating dental stains and getting the brightest and whitest smile possible, we encourage you to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. The team at the Van Zyl Center for Advanced Dentistry is eager to discuss your treatment options with you and help you have the best looking smile possible.

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