Facts About Tooth Staining and Discoloration

Why aren’t my teeth white?

The colour of your teeth can be influenced by lots of factors, including the translucence of your enamel (or surface) layer, the darkness of your dentin layer underneath your enamel, the size of the tooth (big teeth have more of the dark dentin layer, which makes them look darker) and even the lighting in the room you’re in.

Then there is tooth staining and discoloration, where your enamel is tinted by things other than your teeth’s natural state.

What causes tooth staining and discoloration?

Most tooth staining is the result of two things:

  • Tartar (calculus) build up
  • Surface stains caused by the food and drink you consume, by tobacco or by medicines you take

Luckily, there are lots of treatment options for both kinds of staining.

How do I remove tooth stains?

Cleaning

The simplest way to remove surface stains is with careful cleaning. You can clean your teeth using best tooth brushing practices at home, and for more stubborn discoloration you can have a professional cleaning, often called scaling and polishing.

Professional cleanings are the best – and often only – way to remove tartar build up.

Bleaching

If your teeth are discoloured by surface stains, you may need to turn to bleaching. Most bleaching products use either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide) to brighten enamel colour and remove stains.

If you want to start with home options, you can find low-level bleaching products in the form of

  • Whitening strips
  • Bleaching pens
  • Gels
  • Gentle laser treatments

For more advanced stains and discolouration, professional bleaching options include:

  • Light-accelerated bleaching, where the tooth is coated with a bleach gel, then treated with a light blast to accelerate the effects of the gel
  • Internal bleaching

Masking

You can also mask stains with bonding or tooth veneers, both of which involve covering teeth with materials of various thicknesses that are then bonded directly to the teeth.

Remember that all of these treatment options can result in tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, so start with the gentlest treatments and get advice from your dental care professional if you have any concerns.