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Clinical Overview

Clinical Overview
Tooth Discoloration

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by: Dr. Kristen Dority

Tooth discoloration is any change in the color or translucency of a tooth due to any cause. It can result from either problems on the tooth surface (extrinsic) or from elements present in the subsurface of the tooth (intrinsic). Intrinsic discoloration in the subsurface of the tooth is often linked to hereditary disorders, the use of tetracycline medications, excessive fluoride intake in drinking water, or high fevers from early childhood disease. The most common cause of extrinsic staining on the tooth surface is poor oral hygiene. Infrequent brushing and flossing as well as the use of dentifrices with inadequate cleaning and polishing actions cause discolorations on tooth surfaces. Accumulations of dental plaque and food particles cause brown or black stains. Deposition of tannins found in tea, coffee, red wine and other beverages particularly are often responsible for brown staining on the outer and inner surfaces of the teeth. Tobacco stains from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco cause pronounced dark brown and black stains that start midway on the tooth and extend down to the gumline. Pan (a combination of betel nut of the areca palm, betel leaf, and lime) is commonly chewed by more than 200 million persons in the western Pacific basin and South Asian region for its mild psychoactive effects, produces blood red saliva that results in a red-black stain on the teeth, gums and other surfaces of the oral cavity. At this point in the 21st century, the treatment of tooth discoloration has evolved into an annual multibillion-dollar, highly sophisticated, scientific, and clinical discipline. However, the origins of the treatment date back thousands of years to ancient clinicians and beauticians first explored using various natural substances to mask undesirable tooth discolorations.

Last updated: May-03-07

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