Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
Search
Help
space placeholder.space placeholder
Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
.
HomeFree E-mail
Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
 PREVENT PROBLEMS
Small BoxAll About Cavities
Small BoxBrushing and Flossing
Small BoxFluoride
Small BoxMouth-Healthy Eating
Small BoxSealants
Small BoxTaking Care of Your Teeth
Small BoxTobacco
Small BoxYour Dental Visit
Small BoxMORE
 CONDITIONS
Small BoxBad Breath
Small BoxCavities
Small BoxCold Sores
Small BoxDry Mouth
Small BoxImpacted Tooth
Small BoxSensitive Teeth
Small BoxTMJ
Small BoxTooth Discoloration
Small BoxMORE
 TREATMENTS
Small BoxCrowns
Small BoxDentures
Small BoxFillings: The Basics
Small BoxGum Surgery
Small BoxImplants
Small BoxRoot Canal Treatment
Small BoxScaling and Root Planing
Small BoxWhitening
Small BoxMORE
 GENERAL TOPICS
Small BoxControlling Pain
Small BoxCosmetic Dentistry
Small BoxEmergencies
Small BoxFill, Repair, Replace
Small BoxKids And Teens
Small BoxOral Health and Your Body
Small BoxOrthodontics
Small BoxPeriodontics
Small BoxSeniors
Small BoxMORE
.
Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
Step 2 Understand ConditionsSimplestepsUnderstand Conditions
Step 3 Explore TreatmentsSimplestepsExplore Treatments

go to Interactive Tools go to Parents' Guide go to Dental Drugs go to News go to Ask The Dentist

Back to Conditions
New reviewed by Columbia banner
.
.
Tooth Discoloration

space placeholder.space placeholder
space placeholder.What Is It?.
space placeholder.Symptoms.
space placeholder.Diagnosis.
space placeholder.Expected Duration.
space placeholder.Prevention.
space placeholder.Treatment.
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional.
space placeholder.Prognosis.
space placeholder.Additional Info.
space placeholder..
space placeholder

space placeholder
space placeholder.What Is It?
space placeholder

Your teeth can become discolored by stains on the surface or by changes inside the tooth. There are three main types of tooth discoloration:

  • Extrinsic — This occurs when the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is stained. Coffee, wine, cola or other drinks or foods can stain teeth. Smoking also causes extrinsic stains.


  • Intrinsic — This is when the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) darkens or gets a yellow tint. You can get this type of discoloration if:
    • You had too much exposure to fluoride during early childhood.
    • Your mother used tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy.
    • You used tetracycline antibiotics when you were 8 years old or younger.
    • You had trauma that affected a tooth when you were a young child. A fall, for example, may damage the developing permanent tooth.
    • You had trauma in a permanent tooth, and internal bleeding discolored the tooth.
    • You were born with a rare condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta. This causes gray, amber or purple discolorations.

  • Age-related — This is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Dentin naturally yellows over time. The enamel that covers the teeth gets thinner with age, which allows the dentin to show through. Foods and smoking also can stain teeth as people get older. Finally, chips or other injuries can discolor a tooth, especially when the pulp has been damaged.
space placeholder
space placeholder.Symptoms
space placeholder

Symptoms include stains on the enamel. They can range from white streaks to yellow tints or brown spots and pits. If the enamel has worn away, and dentin is showing through, you may notice a yellow tint.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Diagnosis
space placeholder

No special tests are needed. A dentist or other dental professional can diagnose tooth discoloration by looking at the teeth.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Expected Duration
space placeholder

Some tooth discoloration can be removed with professional cleaning. An example would be the stains caused by coffee. Many stains are permanent, however. Teeth sometimes can be whitened with a bleaching gel. In some cases, if the discoloration is severe, a crown or veneer may be required to cover it.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Prevention
space placeholder

Brushing your teeth after every meal will help to prevent some stains. Dentists recommend that you rinse your mouth with water after having wine, coffee or other drinks or foods that can stain your teeth. Regular cleanings by a dental hygienist also will help to remove surface stains.

Intrinsic stains that are caused by damage to a nerve or blood vessel in a tooth sometimes can be prevented. You may need to have root canal treatment to remove the inner part of the tooth (the pulp) before it has a chance to decay and darken. However, teeth that have root canal treatment may darken anyway.

To prevent intrinsic stains in children, avoid too much early exposure to fluorides. Once the enamel is formed, fluoride will not discolor teeth.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Treatment
space placeholder

Many extrinsic stains caused by food and drink can be removed by regular professional cleanings and home care. Good home care includes brushing, flossing and rinsing after meals.

Discoloration often can be removed by applying a bleaching agent to the tooth enamel. One technique is called "power bleaching." With this method, the dentist applies a light-activated bleaching gel. It causes the teeth to get significantly whiter in about 30 to 45 minutes. Several follow-up treatments may be needed, or take-home bleaching trays may be provided.

It's also possible to remove discoloration at home. You will use a bleaching gel and a mouth guard given to you by your dentist. The bleaching gels designed for use at home aren't as strong as those applied by your dentist. This means that the process takes longer — usually two to four weeks.

You also can buy whitening products over the counter. They contain a weaker bleach than the products you can get from your dentist. The whitening agent is applied as a gel placed in a mouthpiece or as a strip that sticks to your teeth. Over-the-counter mouthpieces fit less securely than the kind you get from your dentist, but they will lighten your teeth over time.

Whitening toothpastes may remove minor stains. They do not actually change the overall color of your teeth.

If your tooth has darkened after a root canal, bleaching the enamel won't help. Your dentist can apply a bleaching material to the inside of the tooth, or you may consider a crown or veneer.

Bleaching will not lighten some stains, such as tetracycline stains. In this case, your dentist may recommend covering the discolored areas. This also may be useful when the tooth is chipped or badly damaged.

A tooth can be covered with a color-matched composite bonding material. Another option is to get veneers. These are thin ceramic shells that cover the outer surfaces of the teeth.

space placeholder
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional
space placeholder

Tooth discoloration is mainly a cosmetic problem. Visit a dentist if you're unhappy with how your teeth look. Any change in a child's normal tooth color should be evaluated by a dentist.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Prognosis
space placeholder

The prognosis is very good for extrinsic stains. Intrinsic stains may be more difficult or take longer to remove.

space placeholder
space placeholder.Additional Info
space placeholder

American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
402 W. Wilson Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608-222-8583
Toll-Free: 1-800-543-9220
www.aacd.org

American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678
Phone: 312-440-2500
www.ada.org

.
printer friendly format option iconPrinter-friendly version     
.
.
.
printer friendly format option iconPrinter-friendly version
 
......
Powered by Aetna Dental Plans

© 2002-2014 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions. External website links provided on this site are meant for convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement. These external links open in a different window.