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3 Types of Teeth Stains and Remover Options

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

No one likes to look in the mirror and see discoloured and yellow teeth smiling back at them. Everyone battles stained teeth at some point in their life, but how you should go about removing them can be difficult to determine. Cleaning stained teeth depends on the type of stains you have and which whitening options are best for your personal oral health. But there’s good news! With so many whitening options available, there’s bound to be one that will get your smile shining in no time.


Types of Teeth Stains

Extrinsic Stains

An extrinsic tooth stain is a stain on the outer part of the tooth. These stains make their home on your enamel, which is the layer of the tooth that protects the softer part of the tooth (dentine) underneath. Even though enamel is the hardest part of the tooth, it comes in contact with everything you eat or drink and can absorb some of the pigment over time, causing a stain.

The good news is that extrinsic stains don’t move below the enamel to the inner part of the tooth, which means it’s easier to remove them!

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains happen when the sensitive layer underneath the enamel, called dentine, is stained. Dentine is naturally darker and more yellow in colour and is exposed when enamel is thinned or worn down from wear or inadequate oral hygiene. These stains are a little tougher to remove, but not to worry, it can be done! Most at-home techniques that do not use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as an active ingredient will not work to remove intrinsic stains, but a professional whitening treatment might do the trick.

Age-related Stains

Like many things in your body, your teeth show signs of ageing as you get older. You can expect to see two major changes to your teeth as you age: your dentine gets darker and your enamel gets thinner. The combination causes unwanted discolouration that, unfortunately, is out of your control. Similar to intrinsic stains, age-related staining affects the dentine of your teeth. So, it would be most effective to treat these stains with a product that uses an effective whitening ingredient like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, or a professional in-office whitening.

Removing Teeth Stains

Removing Teeth Stains at Home:

  • Whitening Toothpaste- Whitening toothpaste is a great way to remove teeth’s extrinsic stains from the comfort of your own home. Many whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that help to remove buildup and surface stains and some contain a whitening ingredient like hydrogen peroxide that goes beneath the surface to remove deep-set stains. Using a whitening toothpaste is the easiest remedy for at-home whitening, since it’s easily incorporated into something you already do (or should do) twice a day.
  • Whitening Pens- Whitening pens are the perfect whitening solution for a busy-bee on the go. It's quick, easy and doesn't leave you with a mess to clean up. After brushing your teeth, you simply apply a thin layer of whitening gel from the pen onto your teeth and wait for the amount of time suggested on the packaging before you can eat or drink.
  • Teeth Whitening Gel- Available over the counter and from your dentist, teeth whitening gels contain peroxide-based bleaching agents that are in higher doses than in whitening toothpastes. Since the gel has higher amounts of peroxide, you’ll need a tray to use it, so it only comes in contact with your teeth, not the rest of the inside of your mouth. You can get a tooth whitening tray over the counter at a drugstore or get a custom-fit tray from your dentist. Custom trays are usually more effective and better at protecting your gums, but they can be much more expensive than over-the-counter options. Talk to your dentist about what would be the best option for you.
  • Teeth Whitening Strips- This at-home method uses whitening gel but pre-applies it to strips for easy application without a tray. Whitening strips may cause sensitivity because of the high amounts of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, so choose carefully and make sure you've looked at the ingredients before adding them to your cart. You can buy a pack of whitening strips at selected pharmacies or online stores and follow the directions on the back of the package to get started. 

In-Office Bleaching

If your teeth stains won’t budge with an at-home whitening technique, there’s no need to worry! Talk to your dentist about professional in-office bleaching to remove deep stains from your teeth. Although this method is known to be the most effective way to clean discoloured teeth, it can also be the most expensive course of action. If the price tag of a professional treatment concerns you, consider dental treatment by undergraduates/postgraduates at the National University of Singapore for affordable dentistry or check to see if your area has a low-cost dental clinic that offers whitening services.

There’s no need to be afraid of flashing your winning smile. Whether at home or at the dentist office, removing unsightly teeth stains has never been easier! Talk with your dentist about what option is best for you and regain your confidence in your smile.