Have you had your teeth whitened? Were you surprised to look in the mirror only to discover that one tooth was still very discolored? This type of discoloration is often due to internal staining. Unfortunately, regular teeth whitening can’t touch this type of staining.
This is where internal bleaching comes in. Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, is an expert in whitening teeth, and in this blog, he explains the difference between internal staining and external staining and how these issues are treated.
The different types of stains
There are basically two types of tooth stains: external and internal. Here’s a look at both of them:
External stains, which are also called extrinsic stains, are those that involve the surface layers of your teeth. Though tooth enamel is remarkably strong, it has tiny pore-like spaces.
When you eat or drink certain products, such as tea, red wine, coffee, and berries — or if you smoke cigarettes or use other products that contain nicotine and tar — the dark pigments can seep into the pores and create external stains. Regular teeth whitening can eliminate these types of stains.
Internal stains, which are also called intrinsic stains, are not caused by anything you eat, drink, or smoke. Internal staining occurs when the soft tissues in the center of your teeth — the dentin and pulp — darken or turn yellow. This type of staining can be caused by:
- Aging pulp that naturally discolors
- Traumatic tooth injuries that cause bleeding into the dentin
- Root-canal sealant that discolors and shows through the enamel
- Left-behind pulp that discolors the dentin following a root canal
- Certain products that are used during endodontic procedures
Regular teeth whitening can’t touch these types of stains. These stains can only be removed by placing a special bleaching agent inside the affected tooth.
The different types of stain-removal procedures
Since whiteners treat stains on the outside of your teeth, while internal bleaching eliminates stains on the inside, they each require different procedures:
With external bleaching, your provider places a strong bleaching agent on the surfaces of your teeth. This type of bleach is only available to dentists, because dental professionals carefully protect your gums, cheek, and tongue, ensuring the harsh bleach doesn’t touch your sensitive soft tissues.
The bleach then goes through the pores and penetrates just far enough to break down the pigments and eliminate the external staining. The bleach won’t damage the enamel or the tooth root, but it may cause temporary tooth sensitivity.
Internal bleaching is like performing a root canal, but your provider adds some steps. First, your provider drills a very small hole in the back of your tooth. Then your provider removes the pulp — which consists of nerves and blood vessels — from the middle of your tooth. Then your provider cleans the area.
Next, your provider places a bleaching agent inside the tooth and seals it. We normally allow the bleaching agent to stay in the tooth for several days. Then, you come back to the office, and we remove the bleaching agent. Finally, we seal the tooth for good.
If you have yellow teeth due to internal discoloration, we can help you get the white smile you desire. To learn more, contact the practice of Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, to schedule an appointment today. We have offices in Statesville and Hickory, North Carolina.