Stained teeth: what causes them and how should I treat them?

Stained teeth are a very common problem and can be treated in a variety of different methods depending on the type of staining and the result wanted.

People’s teeth vary greatly in colour. Some people’s teeth are naturally dark or yellowish and so appear dull or stained. In large part, teeth staining occurs as a result of environmental factors such as diet and habits such as smoking. Teeth staining can be broadly categorised as follows:

Superficial surface stains – these are stains that can be removed by brushing with a whitening toothpaste or a professional scale and polish clean at your dental practice. Some superficial stains cannot be removed by a simple scale and polish and a prophyflex or airflow stain removal treatment is required, where jet of compressed air, water and fine sodium bicarbonate particles are fired under high pressure at the surface of the teeth.

Deep embedded stains – these result from the stains working their way into the structure of the teeth. Typical examples include stains caused by coffee, red wine, foods such as Indian curry and nicotine stains from smoking. These stains cannot be removed by a hygiene appointment at your dentists or brushing with whitening toothpastes at home. For deep stains, professional teeth-whitening treatment is required, which is where the active whitening product - peroxide - penetrates the tooth surface and bleaches the teeth.

Inherited or developmental stains - some stains or discolorations are inherited, whereas others occur during tooth development. Tetracycline antibiotics taken during tooth development can cause a greyish stain to be incorporated deep within the tooth structure. Although some whitening products may work on tetracycline-induced stains - such as the Enlighten deep bleaching system - some stains cannot be removed by professional teeth whitening. In such cases, porcelain veneers or cosmetic bonding may be your only option to cover the stains on your teeth. With veneers, you can choose the exact shade of teeth that you want, as well as having the option of changing the overall shape of your teeth and smile. However, tooth structure will need to be removed to prepare the teeth for veneers.

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