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Treating Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

By Dr. David Wyse on November 19, 2014

Female pointing to her bright, white teethIf you are dissatisfied with the color of your teeth, as so many people are, you have probably contemplated the benefits of professional teeth whitening, which can brighten the teeth by several shades in as little as one hour. While professional teeth whitening does offer dramatic results, it is important for patients to understand that it is not always the best solution for discolored teeth. There are actually two primary types of tooth discoloration: extrinsic and intrinsic. Understanding the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic tooth discoloration, and determining which is present, is important in offering our patients at Chrisman & Wyse Cosmetic & General Dentistry the most effective cosmetic treatment for stained and discolored teeth. Our cosmetic dentists help our patients understand extrinsic vs. intrinsic tooth discoloration so that they can choose the best treatment option for creating the bright, white smile they desire.

Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration

In the simplest terms, extrinsic tooth discoloration describes that which is present on the exterior of the tooth. The outer layer of the tooth is the enamel, which acts as a protective shield to the inner part of the tooth. It is very common for patients to notice the tooth enamel become discolored by food or beverages, or to take on a duller, yellow hue. The following are common causes of extrinsic tooth discoloration:

  • Wine
  • Coffee
  • Colas
  • Chewing tobacco/cigarettes
  • Inadequate brushing or flossing

Although extrinsic tooth discoloration can greatly affect the overall appearance of the smile, the good news is that extrinsic discoloration is very responsive to teeth whitening treatment. Patients with extrinsic tooth discoloration are ideal candidates for the BriteSmile® teeth whitening system, which brightens the teeth by an average of eight shades with just a single dental appointment. This is a non-invasive procedure that has minimal risk of complications and provides patients with satisfying teeth whitening results.

Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration

Intrinsic tooth discoloration differs from extrinsic discoloration in that it describes discoloration on the interior layer of the tooth, also known as the dentin. The dentin is not as white as the enamel to begin with and can become significantly discolored by any of the following factors:

  • Certain diseases
  • The use of certain medications
  • Over-exposure to fluoride
  • A traumatic injury to the tooth

If the dentin becomes greatly discolored, it is likely to show through the tooth’s enamel (especially if the enamel is naturally thin or has become worn down), giving the teeth a gray or yellow appearance. Because intrinsic stains are present on the interior of the tooth and because they are not superficial in nature as extrinsic stains are, they do not typically respond to teeth whitening treatment. However, patients suffering from extrinsic stains can still get the white, attractive smile they desire. Cosmetic treatments such as dental bonding, dental crowns, and porcelain veneers can conceal intrinsic stains and brighten the smile.

Schedule an Appointment

At Chrisman & Wyse Cosmetic & General Dentistry, we help our patients to improve oral health while creating dazzling smiles. If you would like to brighten your teeth and enhance the appearance of your smile, schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience to learn more about our cosmetic dentistry treatments. We look forward to hearing from you!

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I love my "new teeth." I feel so much better about my smile. The staff at Dr. Chrisman's office was very friendly and professional. I would recommend them to anyone looking for excellent dental care. Jennifer B

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Bloomington Office

207 S Prospect Rd
Ste 2
Bloomington, IL 61704

Open Today 8:00am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (309) 663-6393

Bloomington Office

207 S Prospect Rd
Ste 2
Bloomington, IL 61704

Open Today 8:00am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (309) 663-6393