Poor oral hygiene, age, habits, trauma and certain medications can all cause teeth to discolor. White streaks, yellow tints, brown spots and pits are indications of tooth discoloration. Dentists diagnose this condition by performing a visual examination.

Discolorations are divided into three main categories: extrinsic, intrinsic and age-related.

Extrinsic Discoloration

Food and drink are the major contributors in this category. Coffee, wine, cola, tea and certain foods are known to cause stains and should be avoided. Brushing teeth or rinsing with water immediately after finishing the staining substance decreases the likelihood that staining will occur. Smoking also causes extrinsic stains. The easiest way to avoid this type of staining is to adhere to a good oral health care regime and drinks plenty of water. Saliva naturally rinses staining substances from the surface of teeth, drinking water aids in the elimination of dry mouth.

Dental cleanings can also remove this type of staining and exterior whitening treatments are also effective.

Intrinsic Stains

This type of staining is the result of internal chemical changes that darken the inner structure (dentin) of the tooth. Excessive exposure to fluoride in early childhood, the mother’s use of tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy or the child’s use before the age of 8 and trauma are common causes of intrinsic stains. Falls or accidents that occur before the permanent tooth has fully developed can damage it, causing it to appear discolored.

A process called internal whitening may be effective on intrinsic stains. During internal whitening, a whitening product is applied to the inside of the tooth.

Age Related Discoloration

This type of discoloration is a combination of the two previously described conditions. Dentin will naturally darken over time and enamel naturally thins with age. This process results in a darker tooth color. A lifetime of eating and drinking staining food and drink takes its toll. Also, most individuals experience some type of dental trauma during their life which darkens the tooth.

A sure way to change the color of any tooth is to use a porcelain veneer or bonding. Porcelain veneers are crafted in a dental laboratory and fit over the existing tooth, covering the front completely. Bonding involves applying a plastic, resin material to the front of the tooth. Both processes require a thin layer be removed from the natural tooth to account for the thickness of the restoration.

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