What causes stained teeth?
There are two types of staining on teeth: extrinsic staining (staining on the outside of the tooth) and intrinsic staining (staining below the tooth surface).
Extrinsic staining can be caused by pigmented food or drink residue sticking to the film of protein covering the enamel. Dark foods and drinks are often the cause; red wine, tea and coffee are well know culprits. It’s the tannins in tea that cause the discolouration. Smoking will most likely stain your teeth. While poor oral hygiene can exacerbate staining, teeth that are cleaned very well can also develop dark stains. Surprisingly, some mouthwashes being used too regularly can also stain teeth.
Intrinsic staining can be caused by many things, including the use of certain medications while the teeth are developing, or too much early exposure to fluoride. Other common causes are trauma, at any age, and childhood illness.
Are stains actually damaging to the teeth?
The stains themselves are not damaging to teeth, however if the staining is caused by poor oral hygiene then this can lead to decay and gum disease.
What can be done about them?
Extrinsic staining can often by removed quite easily with ultrasonic or hand scaling. Even quite young children can tolerate this well. Smilefocus has a ‘prophy jet’ that can be use for more intense stains. Intrinsic staining is more tricky to manage. Tooth whitening which gets below the enamel is an options however it will depend upon the depth and size of stain. Sometimes this will not be effective and then restorative options can be discussed with your dentist.
What can be done to prevent stains?
Very good oral hygiene will help to prevent the build-up of stains and regular cleaning with your dentist or dental hygienist. Avoiding smoking is always advisable. After having dark food or drinks rinsing with water may help to prevent the build-up.
If you have any questions see your dentist!
Dr Dianne Sainsbury is a New Zealand trained dentist based at Smilefocus.
Call 6834 0877 to make an appointment.