Teeth Whitening: What's the Difference Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Stains?

Dentist Blog

If you're considering having your teeth whitened, you need to think about how your teeth currently look before you start treatment. Stains on the teeth may affect whitening procedures, and you should assess any staining you have to see if it will affect the results you ultimately get. If you whiten stained teeth, they may well come out in a different shade to those without stains, leaving you with uneven results.

Extrinsic Stains on the Teeth

Extrinsic staining is external, sitting on the surface of the tooth. Generally, extrinsic stains are caused by food, drink or habits. For example, your teeth may be stained if you do the following:

  • Drink a lot of coffee, tea, red wine or highly coloured drinks.
  • Smoke regularly.
  • Eat a lot of highly coloured foods, such as curries.
  • Allow a lot of plaque to build up on your teeth.

You may be able to get rid of external stains relatively easily. Typically, the best way to do this is to visit your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and scaled. Your dentist will also be able to advise you on how whitening may work on your teeth, even if you're planning a home treatment rather than having treatment with your dentist.

Tip: It's worth having your teeth professionally cleaned before you embark on any whitening program. You may find that this makes your teeth look whiter anyway. If you still decide to have a whitening treatment after having your teeth cleaned, the clean may help it take more evenly.

Intrinsic Stains on the Teeth

Intrinsic stains are located inside the tooth. There are many different reasons why teeth get internal stains. For example, they may be caused by the following problems:

  • Previous dental work, such as root canal treatments or fillings.
  • Decay inside the tooth that hasn't been dealt with yet.
  • Previous antibiotic use that may date back as far as your childhood.

It can be much harder to deal with internal staining in a tooth than an external stain, and you may need to undergo dental treatment before you whiten your teeth. This may not bother you too much if you have a stained back tooth; it may be more of a problem for you if the stained tooth is at the front of your smile.

For the best results, ask your dentist if there is a way to get rid of your internal stains. For example, you may be able to replace old fillings, bleach the inside of the tooth, or use veneers or crowns to improve the colour of internally stained teeth.  


17 November 2015

Teeth And Tears: Dental Dramas Of A School Nurse

I have worked as a school nurse for decades. Children come to me with all sorts of scrapes and bumps and bruises. Black eyes from playing football, sprained wrists from falling off the monkey bars and stomachaches from too many sweets are common complaints. However, the issue that seems to cause the greatest angst is tooth problems. Sometimes a child will have a second tooth knocked out when playing sport and parents arrive in tears. At other times, children come to my office crying because their friends are teasing them about teeth that are discoloured or stick out. I take an active interest in the latest dental news so that I can give parents and children comfort and advice. I have included some of my collected wisdom on these pages. Perhaps this information can help you understand some options when faced with a dental problem. Thank you for reading.