Photo: Reinas Traidas via Flickr

If you don’t see “pearly whites” when you smile, you may be considering a teeth whitening. Despite nickname for teeth, the truth is very few of us go about our daily lives with a “pearly white” smile. While no one’s teeth are naturally pure white (teeth are naturally off-white), that doesn’t change the association of a whiter smile with health and beauty. Before you decide how to brighten you smile, you should know a bit more about how teeth stains work.

Ready for a quick dental vocabulary lesson? The two types of dental stains are called extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains affect the outside layer of your tooth, i.e. the external part of the tooth. Intrinsic stains affect the inside layers of your tooth, i.e. the internal part of the tooth.

Extrinsic stains are caused by the food you eat and the beverages you drink. Some of the major culprits are coffee, tea, berries, wine and dark-colored sodas, such as cola. Unfortunately, many of us are in the habit of consuming at least one of these things on a daily basis, which is one of the reasons tooth whitening is such a popular treatment!

Extrinsic stains can be removed using both drugstore teeth whitening products and professional teeth whitening from the dentist. Both work by bleaching stains on the tooth enamel, and the big difference in effectiveness is how quickly you get results. Which option you choose depends on your budget, timing and how severe the staining is.

Intrinsic stains occur as your teeth are developing. If a woman takes tetracycline antibiotics in the second half of her pregnancy her baby may end up having discolored teeth. The same is true of children who take tetracycline before age 8. Excessive exposure to fluoride as a child can also cause stains. Certain congenital conditions can also affect the color of teeth.

Because we can’t expose the insides of teeth and change their color, intrinsic stains cannot be removed with traditional teeth whitening. The best solution for white teeth for intrinsic stains is to cover the teeth with either veneers or cosmetic bonding. The added benefit of both treatments is that they allow you to also change the shape and size of your teeth if you wish.

If you’re interested in teeth whitening, let us know so we can determine which type of staining your teeth have and recommend the best treatment for the results you want.