To know how to improve a tooth stain, it helps to know what type of stain you are dealing with. Paul A. Sagel, a Procter & Gamble Research Fellow, has conducted extensive research into the science of tooth stain. Research by Sagel and others has shown that some stain particles remain on the tooth enamel, while others work through the tooth enamel over time and set beneath the tooth surface, which creates dullness and tooth stain. (1), (2), (3)
The Two Types of Tooth Stain
Tooth stain can be categorized two ways:
Extrinsic tooth stain: An extrinsic tooth stain occurs when stain particles, such as pigmented residue from food or drink, build up in the film of protein that covers the tooth enamel. This type of tooth stain responds well to regular dental cleaning and brushing the teeth with whitening toothpaste. (1), (2), (3)
Intrinsic tooth stain: An intrinsic tooth stain occurs when stain-causing particles work through the exterior of the tooth and accumulate within the tooth enamel. Long-term consumption of high-staining food and beverages, such as coffee and red wine, can cause an intrinsic tooth stain. (2), (3), (5) Excessive fluoride use and use of the medication tetracycline also have been associated with intrinsic, especially in children. (4)
An intrinsic tooth stain is trickier to remove, but it can be done. An intrinsic tooth stain may require bleaching using professional or at-home chemical teeth whitening products, such as whitestrips.
- Joiner, A. Tooth colour: a review of the literature. Journal of Dentistry 2004;32:3-12.
- Vogel R. Intrinsic and extrinsic discolouration of the dentition: A review. Journal of Oral Medicine 1975;30:99-104
- Dr. Paul A. Sagel, P&G Research Fellow, writing in Oral Care Science Packet