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Types of Teeth Stains & What They Mean

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A man sitting in a dentist's chair, holding up a mirror looking at his white teeth and smiling

There’s more to tooth stains than just yellow teeth. Stains come in a variety of shades and can be located on different parts of your teeth, and each type of stain can tell a unique story about your oral health.

There 2 main types of teeth stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains appear on the surface of your teeth and can often be removed with regular brushing and professional cleanings. Intrinsic stains occur inside your teeth when particles get into the enamel and dentin. The type of stain you have can determine your options for removing it and whitening your smile. 

If you’ve noticed some staining, your dentist can help! From professional cleanings to teeth whitening treatments, they can help brighten your smile and arm you with oral care tips to prevent future stains. 

What Causes Tooth Stains?

Tooth stains can be a nuisance, but understanding what causes them can help us prevent and address these pesky discolourations.

Extrinsic Tooth Stains

Extrinsic tooth stains are caused by external factors and often affect the tooth enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. Common culprits include: 

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Berries
  • Soy sauce
  • Dark-coloured juices 

These substances contain pigments that can adhere to the tooth surface and cause discolouration over time. Luckily, extrinsic teeth stains are usually easier to address with regular brushing, professional cleanings, and whitening treatments.

Intrinsic Tooth Stains

Unlike extrinsic stains, intrinsic teeth stains originate from within the tooth structure. They can be caused by factors such as: 

  • Trauma
  • Certain medications (like tetracycline)
  • Excessive fluoride intake during childhood
  • Genetics

Intrinsic stains are more challenging to remove because they affect the inner layers of the tooth, including dentin, which lies beneath the enamel. Whitening treatments may not be as effective for intrinsic stains, and other cosmetic procedures like dental bonding or veneers may be necessary to improve the appearance of the affected teeth.

Yellow Stains

Yellow teeth stains are often caused by the accumulation of surface-level discolouration from everyday culprits like coffee, tea, and cola. Inadequate oral hygiene and smoking habits can also contribute to this yellowish tinge. A yellow tinge can also happen naturally with age as the tooth enamel wears down and the dentin becomes exposed. With regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings, you can keep these stains in check and maintain a dazzling smile.

An infographic showing common types of teeth stains

Brown Stains

Brown stains on teeth typically arise from habits like tobacco use or excessive consumption of dark-coloured beverages such as red wine. While brown stains can be stubborn, fear not! With the right combination of professional whitening treatments and diligent oral care, you can bid them farewell and embrace a brighter, more radiant smile.

White Spots

While white spots may seem harmless, they can actually be early indicators of tooth decay. These chalky patches tend to appear when the enamel becomes weakened, often due to insufficient oral hygiene practices or excessive fluoride intake. Regular dental checkups and fluoride treatments are key to preventing further damage and maintaining a flawless smile.

Grey or Blue Stains

Grey or blue stains may hint at more complex issues, such as tooth trauma or the impact of certain medications taken during childhood. Addressing these intrinsic stains can sometimes require specialized treatments beyond traditional whitening methods. Your dentist may recommend advanced cosmetic procedures like bonding or veneers to help you achieve that picture-perfect smile you’re looking for.

How to Prevent Tooth Staining

Preventing tooth staining is essential for maintaining a bright and healthy smile. With some minor lifestyle adjustments, you can keep those pearly whites shining.

Brush & Floss Regularly: The foundation of good oral hygiene lies in brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. This helps remove plaque and surface stains before they have a chance to settle in.

Be Conscious of What You Eat & Drink: Certain foods and beverages can contribute to tooth staining. Limit your intake of highly pigmented foods like berries, soy sauce, and dark-coloured juices. Be mindful of drinks such as coffee, tea, and red wine, which can leave lasting stains. If you do indulge, consider using a straw to minimize contact with your teeth.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water not only keeps you hydrated but also helps wash away food particles and reduce the risk of staining. Make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water after consuming stain-causing substances.

Quit Smoking: Products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco contain harmful chemicals that can lead to severe tooth staining. Quitting smoking not only benefits your overall well-being but also helps preserve the natural whiteness of your teeth.

Whitening Treatments: If you’re already dealing with noticeable tooth staining, professional whitening treatments and at-home teeth whitening products can help restore your teeth to their natural brilliance. Talk to your dentist about their teeth whitening options.

Maintain a Bright, Healthy Smile

While tooth stains can be annoying, they don’t have to define the appearance of your smile. Healthy oral care habits can go a long way in helping you maintain a bright, healthy smile.

With routine dental exams, your dentist can spot early signs of tooth staining or other dental issues and offer tailored advice on maintaining a bright smile.

If you’re due for a checkup or want to learn more about your options for teeth whitening, contact our experienced team at Shawnessy Dental Centre.

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