Understanding Tooth Discoloration

Before you understand teeth whitening and why it doesn’t always work for everyone, it’s important to understand why teeth become discolored. There are two main types of tooth discoloration: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic discoloration occurs when something outside the tooth causes discoloration. Most often, this is staining compounds from your diet and lifestyle. Some common sources of discoloration include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Dark beers
  • Chocolate
  • Berries and other rich-colored fruits
  • Smoking, including tobacco and marijuana
  • Vaping
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Smoking, including tobacco and marijuana
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Berries and other rich-colored fruits
  • Red wine
  • Dark beers
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Chocolate
  • Vaping

These foods, beverages, and other sources contain large organic compounds that stick to your teeth, creating stains. Brushing your teeth can remove some of these stains, but some get caught in the roughness of your teeth. Your teeth might feel smooth, but they have a texture, and they can get rougher when you consume acidic foods and drinks. That’s why white wine also leads to stained teeth. It’s more acidic than red wine and creates conditions that trap more stains from other sources. At your regular dental checkups, your dentist will clean and polish your teeth. This removes some of these stains and prevents others, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Intrinsic stains come from within your teeth. Your tooth has several layers. The outer layer which is normally bright white is the enamel. Under this is the dentin, which is darker in color, and then there’s a living part with blood called the pulp. Intrinsic discoloration might be from enamel defects, naturally darker dentin, dental infections, and bruised teeth. This type of tooth discoloration can worsen with age. As we get older, the enamel can thin, especially if you expose your teeth to acidic foods and drinks. Thin enamel lets the dentin show through. Dentin can also darken with age.

How Teeth Whitening Works

Teeth whitening works by breaking down the organic compounds that stain your teeth. This makes it very effective on extrinsic stains. If your teeth are discolored because of food, drink, tobacco, or marijuana, teeth whitening will help. It’s even effective at discoloration caused by tetracycline antibiotics, which is less common, but can be hard to deal with.

Removing the stains will let your teeth get as white as your natural enamel allows, but it won’t combat intrinsic stains. It’s reasonable to try over-the-counter teeth whitening if you see your dentist regularly and have healthy teeth. It is effective on mild stains, but if you aren’t happy with the results, talk to a dentist about professional teeth whitening.

Types of Teeth Whitening We Offer

At South Bay Prosthodontics, we offer KöR Whitening. We choose KöR Whitening because it is highly effective, but it also combats tooth sensitivity that some people experience with teeth whitening.

We use KöR Whitening for both in-office and take-home whitening. We custom-craft whitening trays that create a strong seal to keep the whitening compound on your teeth for better whitening and less gum irritation. For take-home whitening, you will wear these trays overnight for two weeks. If you need additional whitening, we can do an in-office whitening treatment with a more powerful concentration of whitening compound.

Once you achieve the whitening you want, you can maintain the results with periodic maintenance treatments.

Man smiling after receiving a dental bonding

What If Teeth Whitening Doesn’t Work for You

If teeth whitening isn’t working for you, you might need a different approach. Often, for intrinsic staining, you can only get the bright smile you want by covering your teeth with restorations like porcelain veneers, dental crowns, or dental bonding.

Our prosthodontists are specialists at providing this type of whitening that can also repair damaged teeth, reshape teeth, close gaps in your smile, and more.

If you aren’t getting the results you want from whitening, it might be time to contact a prosthodontist.

Get a Brighter Smile in Torrance, CA

Don’t let discolored teeth keep you covering your teeth in public. Have the confidence to smile and speak in public with a bright, beautiful smile.

Please call (310) 378-9261 or use our online form to request an appointment at the Torrance, CA, office of South Bay Prosthodontics.