Two Types of Tooth Discoloration | Dental Treatment Guide

If you have been looking into tooth discolouration, you may have noticed that many sources of information discuss two different types – extrinsic and intrinsic. These two types of staining vary in how they are obtained and how they can be resolved.

Extrinsic Tooth Discolouration

This type of tooth discolouration is generally defined as staining that is found on the tooth's surface. These stains are caused by extrinsic factors such as certain foods and drinks.

There are a number of factors that can cause an individual to be more likely to suffer from extrinsic tooth discolouration. These factors include saliva dysfunction, enamel issues and bad oral hygiene. Furthermore, if you have small fissures in the surfaces of your teeth then you may also be more predisposed to extrinsic staining as food and dirt accumulates in the cracks. Of these predisposing factors, the most common cause is the issue of poor oral health and hygiene. This is due to stain-creating constituents not being removed sufficiently by cleaning or the products you are using to clean your teeth and gums may not be adequate.

More environmental causes of extrinsic tooth discolouration include the accumulation of plaque and food particles on the surfaces of teeth. Certain ingredients in drink products, such as tea and coffee, are known to cause brown staining of the teeth. Another common cause of this type of staining is tobacco. This is a component commonly found in cigars and cigarettes, which creates yellow and brown stains.

Intrinsic Tooth Discolouration

Intrinsic tooth discolouration is defined as the formation of staining inside the teeth. There are a number of different causes behind intrinsic tooth discolouration. The staining can be localised to just a couple of teeth or can spread throughout the whole mouth, whether your teeth are primary (temporary milk teeth) or secondary (permanent adult teeth). If the discolouration is localised, then it can affect teeth that are already in the mouth as well as those who have yet to protrude through the gums. This can affect normal tooth development.

The most common cause of intrinsic tooth discolouration is dental restoration procedures. Many restorations employ corrosive products, which can give the teeth a grey colour. Another cause of intrinsic staining is the erosion of teeth that occurs through life. This erosion means that the dentin inside the teeth becomes closer to the tooth's surface giving it a more yellow appearance. This is most common on the teeth closer to the back of the mouth as these are used for chewing and are therefore more worn.

Trauma is another potential cause of intrinsic tooth discolouration if the teeth have yet to erupt through the gums. This is because the trauma may damage the normal formation of tooth enamel so the tooth lacks the white coating. Teeth that suffer intrinsic discolouration due to trauma are often called Turner teeth. Those most commonly affected are the upper incisors if a child falls onto their face prior to their permanent teeth coming through.

Alternatively, there are a few other factors that can contribute to the formation of intrinsic tooth discolouration. These include drugs that belong to the tetracycline family, nutritional deficiencies (especially of vitamins C and D as well as phosphate and of course, calcium), and genetic disorders that affect the formation of enamel or dentin.

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