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Tooth Discoloration – Causes and Treatments

Everyone wants a bright, beautiful smile–it’s an important confidence builder and can affect the way we deal with people at work and in social settings. But sometimes our daily habits or other factors can leave teeth discolored. Yellowing or darkened teeth can be embarrassing and can sometimes keep us from showing off our best smiles. Your dentist has plenty of options for treating tooth discoloration that will leave you with a gorgeous smile you can feel confident about.

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What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

There are a number of possible causes for tooth discoloration, from something as simple as coffee or cigarettes to more complex medical factors. But your dentist has a solution for nearly all causes of tooth discoloration, and there are more options than ever for treating discoloration and restoring a brilliant smile.

Tooth discoloration can be caused by what you’re eating or drinking. Most of us know the usual suspects: coffee, tea, soft drinks, wine and some foods. Tobacco use is also a major cause of tooth discoloration. In addition to being bad for your overall health, smoking or chewing tobacco also stain your teeth. Many smokers are opting to give up tobacco for all of these reasons. And giving yourself the gift a treatment for tooth discoloration is a great way to celebrate giving up a bad habit. Your dentist has lots of options for helping restore tobacco-stained teeth to their former healthy white.

Illness, medical treatments and some dental treatments can also cause tooth discoloration, affecting the enamel and underlying dentin in your teeth and causing it to darken. These intrinsic discolorations can be a little trickier to treat. Medical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, as well as certain antibiotics and other drugs (including some drugs for high blood pressure) can cause discoloration. Fluoride is generally considered to be good for our teeth, but in some cases fluoride in water or fluoride supplements can also cause teeth to become discolored.

Dental trauma—like a fall or blow to the mouth– can also cause the tooth to become darker. And finally, yellowing or darkening of teeth can be simply part of the aging process. This is usually caused by factors both inside and outside the tooth.

What Are My Treatment Options?

Once tooth discoloration occurs, your dentist can offer a range of treatment options, including whitening treatments (either done at your dentists office or provided by your dentist to take home), bonding and veneers.

Whitening Treatments:

In-office whitening treatments are now the most popular cosmetic dental procedure. In-office treatments are generally safer and longer lasting than DIY whitening, but tend to be more expensive. Your dentist is able to safely use a higher-strength bleaching gel in his office and achieve better results more quickly than DIY treatments.

If you are a good candidate for in-office whitening, your dentist will first conduct a cleaning and exam. If conditions look good, the whitening procedure is usually fairly quick and has a low discomfort factor. Taking care to protect your gums with a dental dam or protective resin, your dentist will apply a bleaching gel and leave it on for around 30 minutes. Some dentists also use a light treatment to activate the effects of the bleach. Your dentist will generally recommend follow-up visits for maintenance and cutting back on foods and drinks that stain your teeth.

Customized take-home teeth whitening trays provided by your dentist are another popular option. If you want to save money by whitening your teeth at home, most experts agree you’ll get better results from a kit provided by your dentist than an over the counter option. These dentist-prescribed trays are custom fitted and contain higher levels of bleach for more effective whitening. These custom trays are designed to fit your mouth and keep your teeth in contact with the bleaching solution for the correct amount of time and also keep bleach from irritating your gums. There are several take-home options available, which usually last four to six months. Your dentist can help you choose the right take home whitening product for your needs and dental condition.

Other Treatment Options

While in-office or take home teeth whitening is often a good solution for discoloration related to eating and drinking, as well as some age or tobacco-related issues, it generally won’t help with discoloration related to medical issues or treatments or tooth trauma. Also, if you have very sensitive teeth or gums, or tooth damage or decay, whitening solutions may not be the best approach. For tooth discoloration caused by a more serious dental or medical issue, more permanent options like bonding and veneers may be a better choice.


Bonding involves the application of a tooth colored resin material to the tooth to improve its appearance. In some cases, bonding can be used for broken teeth but is also frequently used in cases of discoloration. Bonding is usually a fairly simple procedure that sometimes doesn’t require anesthesia, and it can often be completed in a single office visit. After the tooth is prepared, the tooth colored resin is applied and then hardened with curing light. Bonding generally involves the removal of a minimal amount of enamel from the underlying tooth. Bonded teeth don’t require special care—just good dental hygiene. But bonding can chip so be sure to take care when chewing and don’t use your teeth on hard objects.


Dental veneers are made from thin, customized material designed to cover the front of the teeth. They can be made of porcelain or resin and are bonded to the teeth to change size, shape or color. Unlike a bonding procedure, a veneer usually requires several visits to your dentist. After an initial consultation, your dentist will need at least two visits to prepare your teeth for the veneer and then bond the veneer to your teeth. Preparation involves removing some enamel from your tooth and then making a mold for the customized veneer. That mold is sent to an off-site lab, which creates the veneer to fit your tooth. At your next appointment, your dentist will thoroughly clean the affected teeth and prepare them to bond the veneer with a special cement.

Veneers can be a great option for major discoloration, especially when there are other issues related to the size or shape of the tooth. However, they are generally more costly than bonding. They can be delicate and are not the best choice for patients who grind or clench their teeth or for patients with unhealthy teeth—in those cases a dental crown may be the better option.

Veneers usually last between 5 to 10 years. Keep them in good shape with good dental hygiene and regular visits to your dentist. And yes, your dentist may recommend staying away from drinks that stain your teeth like coffee, tea, soda and wine to keep your veneers looking great.

Dental discoloration is nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to almost everyone, and is generally fairly easy to treat. Your dentist has a range of tools in his toolbox for finding a solution to this very common issue. Once he determines the causes of your tooth discoloration, he’ll help you figure out the most effective treatment to give you a bright, white smile you can be proud of.

Have Your Most Enjoyable and Efficient Dental Visit Ever!

At AlSaleh Dental Center, we understand that switching to a new dentist, or finding a new dentist for you or your family can be a worrisome task. You want to find someone who is professional, offers the services that you need or want, and provides a friendly and inviting atmosphere. We believe we meet that standard and beyond. Follow one of the steps below and have your most enjoyable dental visit ever!

  1. Download and read "The Top 10 Things You Must Know Before Choosing Your Dentist" to find out the most important features your dentist should exemplify and offer.
  2. Click here to schedule your no-obligation, complimentary AlSaleh Dental Health Consultation, where you will find out about what dental procedures you may need or what dental health habits you may need to form in order to prevent necessary procedures in the future.
  3. Call 304.267.8702 if you have any questions. One of our friendly team members will be glad to assist you!
Top 10 Things To Know Before Choosing Your Dentist Near Martinsburg Nollville WV
The Top 10 Things You Should Know Before Choosing Your Dental Care Provider
You should do your research before choosing your West Virginia Eastern Panhandle dentist. Ultimately, you should feel comfortable with both the treatment and the dentist. This report will guide you in some key aspects that you should look for in choosing your dentist near Martinsburg, West Virginia (WV).