Birmingham Area Teeth Discoloration Information

As a person ages, the teeth succumb to wear of use as the mineral structure of the tooth changes due to the enamel becoming less porous. Discoloration is considered extrinsic if the causes are from an external factor, or intrinsic if the cause of discoloration results from dental procedures/materials internal to the tooth. Both cases may be present from sustained poor hygiene.


Extrinsic discoloration is defined as discoloration on the outer surface tooth structure caused by topical or extrinsic factors, with the most common case being poor hygiene. Common cases of extrinsic discoloration are:

  • Chromogens (microorgansims that are heavily pigmented or are capable of turning into pigment or dye)  from foods and liquids can grow on the enamel
  • Tar and chemicals from tobacco
  • Corrosive substances/drugs

Extrinsic discoloration is classified into three types according to the Nathoo system of extrinsic discoloration:

  • Nathoo type 1(N-1): Dental stain is same color as chromogens binding to the tooth.
  • Nathoo type 2(N-2): N-1 stains that have darkened over time
  • Nathoo type 3(N-3): Staining caused by the chemical reaction of a colorless prechromogen binding to the tooth

Those with poor hygiene, defects in the enamel, and salivary dysfunction are predisposed to extrinsic discoloration. Saliva plays an important role in maintenance of teeth by assisting in the removal of food particles. As such, children and adults who lack sufficient salivary production are prone to higher extrinsic causes over time.


Dental restorations involving pastes, teeth whiteningcomposites and other dental materials are the most common cause for intrinsic discoloration. The yellowing of teeth due to natural age related wear (excluding extrinsic causes) is caused by the decrease in the enamel revealing the natural hue of the underlying dentin.

Poor hygiene constitutes the next most common cause of intrinsic cases. Dental conditions resulting from genetics, infections and malnutrition all exhibit some degree of intrinsic discoloration.

Some common causes of intrinsic discoloring:

  • Frequent ingestion of acidic food or regurgitation of stomach acid(bulimia) causing erosion of enamel
  • Trauma
  • Use of orthodontic braces hindering thorough food removal
  • Crown or enamel infections
  • Tetracycline based medications such as minocycline and doxycycline diffusing through the enamel and incorporating into the structure as a foreign substance
  • Flourosis characterized by lack of subsurface enamel due to excessive exposure to fluoride during enamel formation
  • Nutritional deficiencies from lack of vitamins C and D, calcium and phosphate
  • Genetic defects

The nature of extrinsic discoloration means most stains can be treated quickly with a minimal number of teeth whitening procedures. In some cases, a patient may buy over the counter teeth whitening products such as take home whitening kits in the form of dental trays that can treat minor stains in a relatively short amount of time.

Patients with severe discoloration, whether it seems extrinsic or intrinsic, need to consult with their dental professional in order to diagnose the true extent of staining and damage.

Schedule a Consultation for Birmingham Area Teeth Whitening

Proper teeth discoloration treatment requires trusted expertise and a quality of compassion in the service. Not all treatment options are the same, and patients with certain conditions must be careful of which treatments are not only available, but possible. Contact our Birmingham area teeth whitening center today.