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Understanding the Different Types of Tooth Discoloration

By Dr. Silvers on August 03, 2014


A woman wearing a sun hat and smiling broadly, showing off her white, stain-free teethModern cosmetic dentistry offers a variety of solutions to discolored teeth, from exquisite, custom crafted porcelain veneers and professional teeth whitening to durable porcelain crowns that cover the entire visible surface area of a tooth. At Silvers Family Dental Care in Harrisburg, tooth discoloration treatment can take several possible forms, depending on the health of the patient’s teeth and the type of discoloration affecting his or her smile. In some cases, a simple in-office teeth whitening treatment will do the trick; in others, a combination of treatments are necessary to producing brilliant, healthy, radiant smiles.

If you are dissatisfied with your smile due to teeth that are discolored, we can help to return them to their naturally white state.

What types of tooth discoloration are there?

Tooth discoloration can be broken down into two basic categories:

  • Extrinsic discoloration: As the name implies, extrinsic affects the outer surface of the tooth, or the enamel. This is the superficial discoloration that occurs over time as a result of exposure to staining agents such as certain foods, coffee, tea, dark sodas, red wine, and tobacco. It can also occur due to the simple passage of time and years of everyday wear and tear.
  • Intrinsic discoloration: This type of discoloration involves the underlying layer of the tooth, or the dentin. Intrinsic discoloration occurs as the result of trauma to the tooth, overexposure to fluoride in early childhood, and certain medications, including tetracycline antibiotics. As with extrinsic discoloration, intrinsic discoloration can also result from the aging process, as dentin tends to yellow over time. As the enamel becomes worn with age, discolored dentin will become more apparent.

Some tooth discoloration is genetic, while some can be the result of poor oral hygiene, cavities, or old dental restorations that have begun to deteriorate.

Treatments for Extrinsic and Intrinsic Discoloration

The most effective method of whitening your teeth will depend on the extent and nature of your discoloration. Professional, in-office teeth whitening will reduce or eliminate the appearance of most stains; however, certain stains - such as the purplish or greyish stains that are hallmarks of intrinsic discoloration - may be stubbornly resistant to the teeth whitening gel. Likewise, teeth whitening may not be a viable option for patients with teeth that are cracked or otherwise damages or who suffer from periodontal disease.

In cases of discoloration that is unlikely to respond well to teeth whitening treatments, porcelain veneers or porcelain crowns may provide the best results. Porcelain veneers are thin restorations that are bonded to the front surfaces of the teeth, where they conceal discoloration and other cosmetic flaws. They are custom crafted to complement surrounding natural teeth in terms of color, shape, size, and even texture. Porcelain crowns are customized with the same degree of precision; however, they are crafted to fit over the entire visible portion of badly discolored or otherwise damaged teeth.

Learn More about the Treatment of Tooth Discoloration

To learn more about which treatment for tooth discoloration would be most effective in your case, please contact Silvers Family Dental Care today.

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