Intrinsic tooth discoloration refers to staining in the teeth that affects more than just the surface. It also affects the inner layers of dentin. In most cases, intrinsic discoloration occurs due to problems when the teeth were developing in the jawbone. It rarely if ever responds to tooth whitening treatment, and generally must be treated by a cosmetic dentist for visible results.
Causes of Intrinsic Discoloration
Intrinsic tooth discoloration usually occurs when a child is exposed to certain substances during gestation. While the baby teeth are developing in the jawbone, they can take on stains that become “built in.” For example, exposure to certain antibiotics, especially tetracycline, causes brownish or grayish stripes of color. Exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride causes white spots or marks on the teeth.
Intrinsic discoloration can also occur due to damage to the tooth. For example, if your tooth is injured in a fall or other dental trauma, the tooth pulp can begin to bleed. The blood inside the tooth leads to a black or brown discoloration. If you notice this type of color change, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. Often, when a tooth suffers damage of this sort, it must be treated with a root canal procedure to prevent infection.
Treatment for Intrinsic Discoloration
Some types of tooth whitening treatment can help with intrinsic discoloration, but they are not as effective as they are with extrinsic, or surface staining. Intrinsic staining can be treated with dental crowns, dental bonding, or cosmetic veneers. Crowns are used to protect a tooth that has received a root canal procedure, so if staining is due to internal damage, a crown will likely be necessary. For purely cosmetic problems, your cosmetic dentist might recommend bonding, in which a resin is used to cover the stains, or cosmetic veneers.
Veneers are a popular option, since they are relatively non-invasive and produce a realistic luster. Thin porcelain shells, custom-made and custom-colored, are applied to the surfaces of the teeth with a strong adhesive. Veneers are durable, attractive, and much less expensive than dental crowns. Ask our cosmetic dentist about the best treatment for your intrinsic staining.