Dental Health Blog

Answering the most frequently asked questions about teeth staining!

Did you know there are different types of tooth discoloration and the reasons behind them? Dental professionals determine which type of category the tooth stain is to create the right plan for lifting stains and whitening the teeth. As a dental service clinic in SE Calgary, we get many questions about what causes tooth stains, how to prevent them, and how to lift them. We answer some of these FAQs about teeth staining below.

Stained teeth

Stained teeth

What are the different types of tooth discolouration?

There are three main categories of tooth discolouration:

  • Extrinsic teeth stains - These stains are on the surface of the tooth and are typically caused by food, drink, and tobacco use (keep reading to learn more about what type of food stains your teeth). Extrinsic stains are a buildup in the film covering the tooth enamel and are generally easy to lift. Sometimes, a regular dental cleaning will remove this build-up to reveal whiter teeth underneath.
  • Intrinsic teeth stains - These stains are below the surface of the tooth and are more challenging to remove than extrinsic stains. Beneath the tooth enamel is what's called the tooth's dentin, the hard layer of material where intrinsic stains exist. Some of the causes of intrinsic teeth stains include oral trauma, ageing, and medications (more on this below). When in-office whitening treatments cannot remove intrinsic teeth stains, your dentist may recommend other dental treatments like veneers, dental bonding, crowns, or lumineers.
  • Age-related discolouration - This category is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic teeth stains. As we age, our tooth enamel becomes thinner, and the dentin beneath naturally yellows over time. Along with the discolouration from food and beverages, you’ll notice that your teeth will become more stained as time goes on.

What stains teeth?

There are many reasons teeth become discoloured, including some instances that are beyond our control. For example, biological factors may play a factor, as the transparency of your tooth enamel can be genetic. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons tooth discolouration occurs.

  • Food and drink - Certain foods and beverages can stain your teeth, including coffee, tea, soda, red wine, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, to name a few. Of course, you don’t have to avoid these foods and drinks altogether, but it does highlight the importance of daily brushing and flossing to prevent or reduce the buildup of surface stains.
  • Tobacco - Smoking or chewing tobacco contributes to tooth discolouration. Generally speaking, tobacco stains are yellow or brown.
  • Oral trauma - An injury or trauma that affects the tooth’s integrity can cause tooth discolouration. Patients often report teeth turning grey after an injury, such as a tooth chip or fracture.
  • Medical treatments - Some medications such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, and ones taken for high blood pressure can discolour teeth. Additionally, chemotherapy can also contribute to teeth stains.

How do I avoid tooth discolouration?

As mentioned above, some of the reasons teeth become stained are unavoidable and out of our control. However, what you can do to protect the teeth enamel and prevent the progression of surface stains is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine with daily brushing and flossing.

Can my teeth be whitened?

Yes, in-office teeth whitening and dental services in Calgary SE can lift most surface stains. With that said, a dentist will need to determine what type of stain they are dealing with to administer the proper treatment.


Medically reviewed by Dr. Gurshant Grewal - a Registered Dentist on April 26, 2021

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