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3 Types of Tooth Stains and How to Remove Them

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Every year, more and more people seek movie-star smiles. Research shows that the worldwide market value of teeth whiteners has grown annually – with an expected 34 percent jump in market value from 2014 to 2024.

If you have discolored or yellow teeth, you might be ready to join your fellow global citizens in whitening your teeth. If so, learn about the different types of stains and what whitening options are best for stain-removal for each type. Even if you don't have a red carpet, you can prepare to dazzle with your smile.

Types of Tooth Stains

At various times in your life, one of these three stain types might tarnish your smile.

Extrinsic Stains

Extrinsic teeth stains discolor your enamel, the outer layer of each tooth. Your enamel protects the softer part of the tooth that's underneath (dentin). Here's how the stains develop:

  1. Even though enamel is the hardest part of the tooth, it comes in contact with everything you put in your mouth – be it berries, red wine, or nicotine.
  2. Over time, this contact leads to your enamel absorbing some of the colors of the items you consume, causing a stain.

The good news is that extrinsic stains don't move below the enamel to the tooth's dentin. So, these stains are the easiest to remove with a home teeth-whitening system!

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains happen when dentin, the sensitive layer underneath the enamel becomes stained. Here's what you should know about dentin and intrinsic stains:

  • Dentin is naturally darker and more yellow than enamel.
  • Dentin's exposed when the enamel thins out or erodes from life's wear-and-tear or inadequate oral hygiene.
  • Intrinsic stains are a little tougher to remove, but not to worry, you can do it!

To treat these stains at home, you need a product with an active whitening ingredient like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. A professional whitening treatment, though, might prove more effective.

Age-Related Stains

It's only natural that as you get older, your body changes. Regarding your teeth, you might expect these two changes as you age:

  • Your dentin darkens.
  • Your enamel thins.

The combination causes teeth discoloration that, unfortunately, is out of your control – no matter how diligent you've been with your oral hygiene.

Similar to intrinsic stains, age-related staining affects the dentin of your teeth. So, whitening techniques you'd use with intrinsic stains work best with aging teeth.

Removing Tooth Stains

Whether you'd like to remove extrinsic, intrinsic, or age-related stains, we've got you covered!

At-Home Whitening

The items below work best for extrinsic stains. But if the product you buy contains hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, it might work on intrinsic or age-related staining. Just be aware those ingredients might cause teeth sensitivity.

Also, some products combined with a LED light might be highly effective.

Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash: You already brush your teeth twice daily and use mouthwash daily. So, using these whitening products makes it easy to remove stains. Other things to know:

  • Your teeth should become gradually whiter as the products lift off stains bit by bit day by day.
  • Some toothpaste includes a powerful whitening ingredient to remove deep-set stains. Other toothpaste only gets rid of surface stains.
  • If you use another quicker-acting teeth-bleaching product to take off stains (see below), you might consider using whitening toothpaste and/or mouthwash to keep your smile bright.

Tooth Whitening Gel: Available over-the-counter and in custom trays from your dentist, tooth whitening gels contain peroxide-based bleaching agents. Here's the scoop on them:

  • Since the gel contains higher amounts of peroxide than whitening toothpaste, you'll need to use a tray, which usually comes with the gel.
  • The trays help keep the gel in contact with your teeth only, not the rest of the inside of your mouth.
  • Custom trays are usually more effective and better at protecting your gums, but they can be much more expensive than over-the-counter options.

Tooth Whitening Strips: This at-home method uses whitening gel but pre-applies it to strips for easy application without a tray. Be mindful that:

  • Whitening strips can cause sensitivity if you opt for a product with high amounts of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
  • An over-the-counter product, whitening strips need extra care to wear. Follow the package directions and make sure you don't apply the strips over your gumline, as the strips' gel might irritate the gum tissue.

Whitening Pen: An excellent whitening solution for people on the go, a whitening pen fits in purses, pockets, and backpacks. You should know:

  • It's quick and easy to apply a thin layer of whitening gel from the pen onto your teeth.
  • You have more control over where the gel goes with a pen than you do with whitening strips.
  • But the gel's bleaching agents aren't as powerful in a pen. No matter, convenience is key to a whitening pen.

In-Office Whitening

If your teeth stains won't budge with an at-home whitening option, no need to worry! Talk to your dentist about professional in-office whitening to remove deep stains from your teeth.

Although this method can be the most efficient way to whiten discolored teeth, it can also be the most expensive course of action. If the price tag of a professional treatment concerns you:

  • Consider visiting a school for affordable dentistry.
  • Check to see if your area has a low-cost dental clinic that offers whitening services.

Now that you know all the types of teeth stains and how to safely remove them, you're set to DIY at home or spend some quality time in your dentist's chair. Talk with your dental professional about what option is best for you. And be a star in your own life with a dazzling smile!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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