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Robertson and Orchard, DDS

Types of Tooth Discoloration: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic

By N. Perry Orchard on August 18, 2015

Before-and-after contrast of the smile of a patient who underwent teeth whiteningTooth discoloration can make otherwise healthy smiles appear worn, aged, and poorly maintained. Unfortunately, even brushing and flossing cannot prevent some instances of discoloration. Over time, certain staining agents, not to mention the inevitable process of aging, can rob the smile of its natural luster.

Although modern cosmetic dentistry offers a number of excellent methods of restoring teeth to their natural, radiant splendor, it is important that patients understand the types of discoloration that exist before undergoing treatment. Not all treatments will be equally effective against all types of discoloration. Drs. Charles A. Robertson and N. Perry Orchard explain the different types of tooth discoloration during consultations at their Corpus Christi dental practice, as well as which types of procedures will most effectively return their smiles to a beautifully white state while still looking completely natural.

If your teeth are discolored, we can match you with the ideal cosmetic treatment in your case, whether it’s teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental bonding, dental crowns, or some combination thereof. Simply contact our practice to get the process started. In the meanwhile, here’s some basic information about the different types of tooth discoloration.

What are the types of tooth discoloration?

While there are many possible sources of tooth discoloration, all tooth discoloration can be broken down into one of two basic types:

Extrinsic Discoloration

Most typical tooth stains fall into this category. These are the stains that occur on the surfaces of the teeth and usually result from years of consuming coffee, tea, dark sodas, berries, and other dark foods and beverages. They can also occur from tobacco use. Extrinsic stains affect the superficial enamel layer of the teeth and generally do not penetrate down to the deeper dentin layer. They tend to respond well to professional teeth whitening treatments, with most of the stains becoming dramatically lighter after a single session and many disappearing altogether.

Intrinsic Discoloration

Unlike extrinsic discoloration, the sources of extrinsic discoloration penetrate the enamel and affect the underlying layer of the teeth, the dentin. As a result, they are more difficult to treat. Although professional teeth whitening gels are formulated to penetrate the enamel and break down stains at the dentin layer, they are less effective at removing stains that are purplish or greyish in hue, which intrinsic stains tend to be. These stains are often caused by root canal infections, certain medications, failed restorations, trauma, inherited dental issues, overexposure to fluoride, and enamel erosion. While teeth whitening may not address these stains as effectively as it does extrinsic stains, porcelain veneers, dental bonding, and dental crowns can be used to conceal such stains with excellent results.

Learn More about Types of Tooth Discoloration

Regardless of the type of tooth discoloration that is affecting your smile, our dental experts can give you the radiant, stunning smile you desire. To learn more about how we can help you achieve the smile of your dreams, please contact our cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry practice today.

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