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Dentistry Memphis

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Tooth Stains: Understanding the Difference

Digital image of dental model with stained teethYellowed or discolored teeth can leave a healthy smile looking lackluster. A whiter, more radiant smile is often the only thing standing between you and the confidence you need to take on the world.

At Southwind Dental Care in Memphis, TN, we offer several treatments in cosmetic dentistry to minimize stains and deliver a more attractive smile. Some of the treatments we offer include teeth whitening, dental bonding, and porcelain veneers.

Today, our team discusses intrinsic vs. extrinsic tooth stains and explains how each type of discoloration can be addressed and treated effectively.

What Are Extrinsic Stains?

The most common type of tooth discoloration, extrinsic stains, are caused by environmental factors such as dark-colored foods and beverages or tobacco use. These stains affect the enamel, the outermost layer of the teeth.

Preventing Extrinsic Stains

To avoid extrinsic stains, be sure to practice proper brushing and flossing techniques and visit your dentist for cleanings on a regular basis.

You can also prevent tooth discoloration by reducing or eliminating staining agents in your diet, such as tea, coffee, cola, fruit juice, berries, and tomato sauce. When you do drink dark-colored beverages, try sipping them through a straw to minimize the amount of contact the liquid has with your teeth.

Treating Extrinsic Stains

Professional teeth whitening is incredibly effective for extrinsic stains and is the most common treatment for this issue. During this process, oxygen molecules break apart the bonds that create dark stains, resulting in a smile that is up to eight shades brighter.

At our practice, we offer Zoom!® teeth whitening, which can brighten your smile in a single office visit. We also have take-home kits available for those who wish to perform this process at their convenience.

What Are Intrinsic Stains?

Unlike extrinsic discoloration, intrinsic stains occur deep within the tooth. This type of discoloration can be due to several factors, including:

  • Certain medications, such as tetracycline
  • Direct injury or trauma, which results in bleeding inside the tooth
  • Weakened enamel or deep decay, which can cause intrinsic staining to penetrate deeper
  • Genetics

Preventing Intrinsic Stains

Due to the nature of intrinsic stains, it is impossible to avoid them altogether. However, by properly caring for your teeth, you can significantly reduce the chance of staining due to weakened or decayed teeth.

Treating Intrinsic Stains

Generally, intrinsic stains do not respond to professional teeth whitening because the discoloration is too deep within the tooth structure. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to treat this problem.

Some of the most common treatments available at our practice include:

  • Dental bonding: A tooth-colored composite resin material is applied to the teeth to mask discoloration. After molding and shaping the material, your doctor will polish your teeth to a high shine, revealing a brighter, whiter, more dazzling smile. Bonding is minimally invasive and can be reversed if desired. Generally, bonding lasts approximately six to eight years with proper care.
  • Porcelain veneers: Like bonding, veneers can mask intrinsic stains. These ultra-thin custom shells are bonded to the front surfaces of the teeth. Because some enamel removal is necessary for veneer placement, they are not reversible. In most cases, veneers can last upwards of 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance. However, they will need to be replaced at some point.
  • Porcelain crowns: Crowns are custom restorations that can conceal aesthetic imperfections. However, a crown fits over the whole tooth. This is beneficial when added reinforcement is necessary. Crowns can last more than 20 years with diligent at-home care and routine cleanings.

Contact Us to Learn More

Are you looking for the best way to brighten your smile? Schedule a consultation at our office to determine the most appropriate treatment option for you. Contact us online or call us at (901) 751-1260.

Tagged In: Cosmetic Dentistry

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I have been to several dentists in the Memphis Area and I have finally found THE ONE!! Dr. Messer is the best dentist I have ever been to. I have complete confidence in any procedure that he performs and I can't imagine ever going to any other dentist.

-Meredith Page B.