Removal of Stains

Staining and discolouration of teeth can impact one’s confidence levels and be a major source of insecurity for many. Stained or discoloured teeth can cause social embarrassment or psychological trauma.

Perhaps you’ve experimented with different toothpastes or bought home bleaching kits to whiten your smile, only to find that these options fall short of your expectations. Fortunately, your dentist can provide suitable cosmetic treatments with good long-term results.

Different types of stains are removed in different ways, but whatever the cause of staining, your dentist will be able to discuss all your treatment options during your dental consultation so that you can have the smile of your dreams.

There are several types of stains:

Surface stains occur between teeth and on the surfaces of crooked teeth. They usually look brown, and often they are caused by coffee, tea and tobacco.

To prevent surface stains, cut back on coffee, coca cola, tea and red wine, and avoid smoking. Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings, and brush and floss regularly.

Soft deposits are caused by plaque or tartar build-up. Often these start from bacteria, and are usually due to inadequate oral hygiene. They can look like dark and whitish areas around the gum line, and can be removed after dental scaling and polishing.

Tetracycline stains can be yellow, brown or gray. Multiple in-office bleaching can create a much whiter smile.

Intrinsic stains look like white splotches or bands of brownish gray on the tooth surface. They may be due to genetics, disease, medications or advanced decay by old silver fillings.

There can be many different causes of staining, not all being related to one’s diet. Stains can either be ‘extrinsic’ – on the outer surface of tooth enamel, or ‘intrinsic’ – in the inner layers of the tooth. Often extrinsic staining is more easily treated than intrinsic stains through regular cleans and polish or even through teeth whitening.

  • Extrinsic staining:

It is often foods and drinks that contribute to this type of staining. These include tea, coffee, red wine, dark coloured fruits such as berries and natural fruit juices.

These foods and drinks contain ingredients known as ‘tannins’, which cause colour compounds to stick to teeth and result in staining. Smoking and the use of tobacco related products as well as improper/infrequent oral hygiene habits can also result in extrinsic stains.

  • Intrinsic staining:

Common causes of this are excess fluoride exposure, trauma to the teeth, certain illnesses and certain medications including tetracycline antibiotics either during pregnancy or in early childhood development years. The tooth layer beneath enamel known as ‘dentine’ is naturally yellow and sometimes a thinner overlying enamel can mean more yellowish appearance of teeth.

  • Age-related staining:

This is a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic staining. As we age, our dentine becomes more yellow.

This combined with the thinning of enamel from everyday tooth wear can cause the yellowish appearance to become more pronounced.

Treatment Options

Polishing is the simplest way to remove stains. It is a painless procedure where your dentist applies a paste to the surfaces of your teeth using a rotating instrument. Deeper intrinstic stains may require for advanced treatment such as microabrasion.

This is carried out during your regular dental check-ups and cleans. Your dentist/oral health therapist will assess the amount of staining on your teeth and remove extrinsic stains using either polishing paste or by using an air polishing system.

Polishing is best if you:

  • Have only slight surface staining
  • Want a natural look
  • Want to spend a small amount of time and money

Teeth Whitening involves using an oxidising agent to lighten the teeth, and is best for moderate surface and intrinsic stains. Your dentist may recommend in-office or home bleaching depending on the nature of your stains.

This option is available as either a 90 minute in-chair whitening session or as a take-home option involving custom fitted trays. While teeth whitening will lift certain stains and discolouration, it may not be the most effective treatment option particularly for intrinsic stains. Your dentist/oral health therapist will discuss this during your appointment.

Bleaching is best if you:

  • Have mild to moderate tetracycline, fluoride or trauma-related staining
  • Don’t want to spend too much money
  • Are happy with the shape of your teeth
  • Prefer a more conservative, noninvasive approach

Make the most of bleaching:

  • Tell your dentist if you have both crowns and natural teeth that you want to be lightened
  • Avoid consuming citrus fruits, juices, soft drinks and antacids after bleaching
  • Decrease your intake of refined sugars before and after bleaching

Bonding involves applying composite resin to the existing tooth, and can mask many types of stains to create a natural-looking and attractive smile. However, bonded teeth tend to stain easily and require periodic repair.

Bonding may be best if you:

  • Have white or brown spots or staining due to excessive wear or silver fillings
  • Are not a heavy smoker or coffee drinker
  • Are willing to take extra care of your new smile
  • Want a less expensive and less invasive option (compared with veneers or crowns)
  • Take care of your bonded teeth:
  • Do not chew ice or bite your fingernails
  • Brush regularly
  • Floss daily, but pull floss out horizontally, not vertically
  • Have your teeth cleaned at least four times yearly
  • If you clench or grind your teeth at night, use a nightguard
  • Minimise consumption of coffee, tea, colas and sugar
  • Don’t smoke
  • Cut your food into small pieces and use your back teeth to chew

Dental Veneers are layers of material that can be placed over the natural tooth to improve your smile aesthetic. Composite resin is a material choice for veneers however when compared to porcelain veneers, they can stain more easily and may require more repair.

Porcelain veneers are longer lasting and less prone to staining however they are also more costly. It is one of the most exciting techniques in cosmetic dentistry today.

It involves bonding a thin laminated porcelain veneer to the tooth surface. Its primary advantages are the beauty and durability of the material.

Porcelain doesn’t stain like composite resin, and remains attractive for a much longer period of time. In addition, porcelain veneers can improve not only the colour but also the size and shape of your teeth for a total smile makeover.

Porcelain veneers are best if you:

  • Want a significant change in the colour of your teeth
  • Are willing to undergo slightly more invasive and time-consuming procedures
  • Can afford the higher cost of treatment
  • Want highly aesthetic results that will last longer

Placing crowns is a more costly and time-consuming option compared with other solutions to staining. However, it can produce near-perfect aesthetic results.

Crowns require removal of natural tooth structure, so are usually only recommended for stained teeth that have additional aesthetic and/or functional problems.

Although this option is more costly and time-consuming, the results that can be achieved are superior to other treatment options. This treatment is suitable for those looking for a complete smile makeover but is not recommended for all cases since it requires extensive removal of natural tooth structure.

It is mainly used when aesthetic concerns are adjoined with functional problems.

Crowns may be best if you:

  • Have many large defective fillings
  • Want the most aesthetic and longest-lasting results
  • Are looking for a complete smile makeover, including improvement in the shape of your teeth
  • Have discoloured teeth that also need some realignment or straightening

Regular dental check-ups and cleans go a long way in keeping teeth staining at a minimal. If you have any concerns about the appearance of your teeth or are looking for a smile makeover, let your dentist/oral health therapist at Hornsby Dental know during your next visit or book in a consult to discuss all your option treatments.