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Dental stains do not affect your oral health, but they can certainly make you hesitate to smile. There are many treatments that can brighten your smile, depending on the type of stains affecting your teeth.

Types of Dental Stains

  • Extrinsic—stains affecting the enamel (the outermost layer of the tooth) are easiest to treat.
  • Intrinsic—when the dentin (tissue between the enamel and pulp) becomes stained, concealment is usually the best treatment.
  • Age-Related—enamel can become worn and dentin becomes yellowed over time. This combination gives teeth a darker color.
Woman smiling

A Closer Look at what Causes Stains

  • Foods—many common foods and condiments, including tomato sauce, red and white wine, mustard, berries, tea, coffee, and soda cause stains over time.
  • Meds and Supplements—children 8 and younger can develop stains as tetracycline (an antibiotic) bonds to calcium in developing teeth. Ingesting large amounts of fluoride can result in brown dental stains.
  • Nicotine—when nicotine combines with oxygen, it turns yellow. Over the years, nicotine can stain enamel and the outer layers of dentin.
  • Genetics—some of us are born with darker teeth, while others are born with weak enamel that can stain easily.

If you choose to use a bleaching product, you should only do so after consultation with a dentist. This is especially important for patients with many fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains.

American Dental Association

John F. Rink DDS, AAACD

How to Avoid Dental Stains

  • Brush after Meals—it is difficult to completely avoid foods that cause stains. Brushing immediately after meals or at least rinsing your mouth with water can curb staining.
  • Use a Straw—it's not the ideal way to enjoy every beverage, but if you indulge in tea, iced coffee, or cola, a straw can help keep your teeth bright.
  • Stop Using Nicotine—quitting nicotine use of any kind is advisable for many reasons, but it can also help you avoid dental stains.

Which Type of Stain is Affecting my Teeth?

Two Key Assessments:

  1. The Appearance of Your Teeth—dentists can often identify stain types just by looking at the tooth. Extrinsic stains are often yellow or yellowish-brown, and cover the tooth. Intrinsic stains are often localized, looking like an isolated patch.
  2. Medical History—teeth that have undergone a root canal will often develop intrinsic stains over time. If you were exposed to tetracycline in utero or in early childhood, or if you grew up in an area with heavily fluoridated water, this probably means your stains are intrinsic.

Solutions for Teeth Staining

Teeth Whitening

If you have extrinsic stains, whitening treatment supervised by a dentist is the best way to achieve a brighter smile. Your doctor may also recommend internal bleaching after a root canal.

Porcelain Veneers

If you have intrinsic stains or if you don't qualify for whitening, you can conceal your stains with custom porcelain shells that attach to the front of your teeth.

Dental Bonding

Bonding is an affordable alternative to veneers. It involves applying resin to a tooth in a way that hides imperfections and looks natural.

Dental Crowns

If you have severe intrinsic staining resulting from a root canal or another factor, a dental crown may be the best solution.

Dental stains can rob you of your confidence. The good news is that there are many ways to address this issue and achieve beautiful, natural-looking results. Talk to your dentist today about illuminating your smile.

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