If you're not happy with the color of your teeth, you're not alone: The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) asked people what they most wanted to improve about their smiles, and the common response was to brighten them. Teeth stains can have multiple causes, and because each one is different, the treatments should be as well. Here's how to identify the cause of your discoloration and begin appropriate teeth stain removal.
Intrinsic Teeth Stain Removal
Intrinsic stains refer to staining of the dentin, the sensitive tissue that lies just below your enamel. This layer naturally takes a yellower or darker color, which can then be seen if the enamel wears away due to poor mouth health. There are many possible reasons for this type of staining, including exposure to tetracycline antibiotics during childhood or physical trauma to your teeth.
These stains originate inside your teeth, so you won't be able to remove them at home with just a whitening toothpaste. Instead, at-home whitening kits or a professional treatment by your dentist may be able to remove these stains; the active ingredients in these bleaches are meant to remove deep stains in addition to the surface stains you can remove yourself.
Even the most stubborn intrinsic stains can be camouflaged with restorative methods such as bonding or capping (crowning). Bonding applies a tooth-colored composite resin to the surface of your stained teeth and then contours it into the correct shape. Once the resin is cured, smoothed and polished, the original white color of your teeth is restored. Crowning, on the other hand, involves placing tooth-colored caps on top of your stained teeth, which hides the staining. Your dentist can help you choose which method is right for you.
Extrinsic Teeth Stain Removal
Extrinsic stains refer to staining of the enamel, the hard surface protecting the more nervous dentin and pulp. Enamel comes into contact with everything you eat or drink, though, and over time it can absorb the pigments left over by these foods and beverages. Red pasta sauce, curry and berries can have this effect on your teeth, as can common drinks like soda, coffee, tea and red wine. Tobacco, whether it's smoked or chewed, is another possible cause of this type of staining.
Because these stains are on the outer layer of your teeth – unlike intrinsic – you can usually remove them with whitening toothpastes like Colgate Total® Advanced Whitening. These work by gently brushing the surface of your enamel, which allows them to lift stains gradually as you scrub them. If whitening toothpaste isn't enough, however, see your dentist; professional dental cleanings produce similar cleaning to tackle surface stains, most of which can be removed in this way.
To prevent your extrinsic stains from recurring right away, make sure you avoid consuming stain-causing products for several days after whitening your teeth.
Age-Related Teeth Stains
Many changes happen throughout your body as you get older, and your teeth are no exception. Specifically, two changes occur in your mouth: your dentin gets darker and your enamel gets thinner. Together these changes cause your teeth to become visibly discolored through no fault of your own.
This form of staining isn't caused by discoloration of your enamel, so treatments that can penetrate into your dentin will be required. Although whitening toothpaste won't be sufficient, your dentist may recommend an at-home bleaching kit or professional in-office whitening treatment, as oral bleaches can remove these deeper stains.
Due to the natural thinning of your enamel, your teeth may still look darker than you'd like after your whitening treatments. If you're still not happy with the look of your teeth, your dentist can cover your thin enamel with restorations like bonding or crowns. These treatments will fully conceal any discoloration originating from your dentin.
When in doubt, see your dentist for guidance on the road to a brighter smile. He or she is trained in ensuring teeth stain removal lasts, helping you make your teeth white again and for good.