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Stained teeth

The teeth can stain for many reasons, including oral hygiene, medications, drink and food choices. Teeth stains can also be on the tooth surface or underneath the enamel. Some people may develop one or both types of teeth stains.

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Types of tooth stains

Tooth stains can occur due to changes in the tooth material, surface discolouration, or both factors. There are three main categories of tooth discolouration:

  • Extrinsic teeth stain

    Extrinsic teeth stain is the stains beneath the tooth surface. This occurs when stain particles like pigmented remnants from drink or food accumulate in the film of the protein covering the enamel.

    Extrinsic teeth stains are often from tobacco use, drinking coffee, wine, tea or cola regularly. This stain is easy to remove with routine dental cleaning and brushing the teeth with white toothpaste.

  • Intrinsic teeth stains

    Intrinsic tooth stain occurs below the tooth surface. It results from stain-causing particles penetrating the exterior of the tooth to accumulate in the tooth enamel. Excess use of fluoride is a common cause of intrinsic teeth staining in children. Intrinsic teeth stains are more difficult to remove, but stain removal is possible. 

    Intrinsic tooth stains may need bleaching at-home chemicals or professional teeth whitening treatments.

  • Age-related teeth stains

    Age-related tooth stains combine the result of extrinsic and intrinsic tooth discolouration. The main tissue of the teeth, called dentine, naturally becomes yellow over time, so the teeth appear discoloured as we grow older. Ageing causes the enamel that covers and protects the tooth to become thinner, allowing the dentine to be visible.

    These intrinsic causes of tooth discolouration and the extrinsic causes of discolouration, like tobacco and eating certain foods and beverages, can cause most older adults to have discoloured teeth.

Causes of stained teeth

Stained teeth can have several causes. Some drinks and foods can stain the teeth, and tooth discolouration is a combination of different biological factors, including the transparency of the enamel.

Some causes of teeth discolouration are preventable, and others are beyond control. Below are common causes of teeth discolouration.

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  • Food and drinks

    Dark soda, coffee, tea, red wine and some vegetables and fruits are causes of teeth discolouration.

  • Tobacco

    Chewing tobacco and cigarettes are proven causes of discoloured teeth.

  • Oral care

    Poor dental hygiene, such as inadequate flossing and brushing, can cause tooth discolouration.

  • Disease and trauma

    Any illness, disease or trauma that affects the enamel development in children when they are still developing teeth or in the womb may lead to teeth discolouration. Trauma affecting adult teeth can also lead to discolouration.

    In addition, some diseases and their treatments can discolour the teeth, for example, radiation and chemotherapy.

  • Medical treatments

    Some medical treatments may stain the teeth, and certain classes of medications, including high blood pressure medications, antihistamines and some antipsychotic medications, can stain the teeth.

Are my teeth white?

The colour of the teeth is subjective, and it isn’t always easy to know how effective teeth-whitening products are for removing or reducing teeth stains. A study showed that professionals also disagree on tooth colour when evaluating the same teeth, and a professional can rate whiteness of the same teeth differently on varying occasions.

A method of evaluating the effectiveness of teeth whitening products is taking high-resolution digital images of the teeth and assigning points for their whitening effect in three ways. They include:

  • An increase in lightness
  • A decrease in redness
  • A decrease in yellowness

Teeth whitening in older adults

The teeth colour gradually changes as you age due to the natural ageing process that thins the enamel and exposes the yellow dentine.

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Why do older adults have tooth stains?

Over time, the tooth’s enamel becomes thin, exposing the natural yellow colour of the main tissue of the teeth, called dentine which also yellows with age. Over time, drinking dark sodas, coffee, tea, and wine can also cause progressive tooth stains.

Injuries or damage to the teeth throughout life can cause discolouration to become more noticeable.

How to remove teeth stains

Several options for removing teeth stains are available. You can keep your teeth healthy and stain-free by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, including brushing at least twice daily, flossing, visiting the dentist twice yearly, and reducing your consumption of teeth-staining beverages. Regular teeth whitening maintenance will keep your teeth white and bright.

Irrespective of your type of tooth discolouration, safe, over-the-counter teeth whitening products are available to restore your discoloured teeth and smile. You can ask your dentist for the most suitable teeth whitening option for age-rated tooth discolouration.

Our dentist at McKennell Dental Practice can advise you on how to get rid of your teeth stains. Call our dental practice today on 020 7834 8802 for more information on our teeth whitening treatments or to book a consultation.