The Types of Tooth Discoloration and How They Can Be Treated

A young woman with a bright, white smileTooth discoloration is perhaps the most common cosmetic complaint that patients have about their teeth. But what many patients don’t know is that there are different types of tooth discoloration, with some stains being more difficult to treat than others. At the Las Vegas practice of Jason L. Downey, DDS, tooth discoloration treatment plans are customized to each patient. Some patients may be good candidates forteeth whitening, which reduces the appearance of stains and gives them a whiter appearance. Other patients may be more suited to treatment options that mask tooth stains, such as the use of cosmetic dental bonding or porcelain veneers. During a consultation, Dr. Downey will recommend the appropriate course of treatment to produce a whiter and brighter smile.

Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Extrinsic tooth discoloration affects the outer, protective layer of the tooth, the enamel. These stains are generally yellow or brown in tone. The discoloration is caused by exposure to foods and drinks, as well as certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking. While extrinsic tooth discoloration may cause some patients to feel embarrassed about the appearance of the smile, this type of discoloration is easily treatable.

Most cases of extrinsic tooth discoloration can be treated with tooth whitening treatments. Teeth whitening is designed to gently lift stains up off of the tooth enamel with the use of hydrogen peroxide-based gels. At the practice of Jason L. Downey, DDS, we offer Opalescence® In-Office Whitening and Opalescence® Take-Home Tooth Whitening, as well as the Day White® Take-Home Kit. The Opalescence® In-Office Whitening system uses the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide to produce dramatic results in less than one hour; patients can expect teeth that are eight shades whiter after undergoing treatment. The home use teeth whitening kits contain a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide. These systems still offer excellent results, but the whitening trays must be worn for several consecutive days to achieve whiter teeth.

Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Intrinsic tooth discoloration affects the deeper layers of the teeth, the dentin. This type of staining generally does not respond well to teeth whitening because the discoloration affects the tooth structure well beneath the enamel. Intrinsic stains are caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Certain medications: Certain medications, such as tetracycline, can cause the teeth to take on a gray hue.
  • Overexposure to fluoride: Overexposure to fluoride can result in white spots on the teeth.
  • Tooth injury or infection: An injury or severe infection of the tooth can cause the tooth to die. This can result in one tooth that is more yellow or brown in color than surrounding teeth.

Intrinsic stains are best treated with dental restorations or materials that mask the tooth.

Dental bonding is the most conservative option; this involves the application of composite resin material to the surface of the teeth. This material is molded onto the tooth to produce a whiter appearance.

Porcelain veneers are thin, ceramic shells that can be placed over the front of the teeth to mask imperfections such as tooth stains.

Dental crowns are a good solution for teeth that are not only discolored, but also in a weakened state. The crowns completely encapsulate the tooth, and can be fabricated in a bright white color to hide tooth stains.

Toschedule a consultation, contact the practice of Jason L. Downey, DDS.