What causes discoloration of the teeth?

Teeth enamel discoloration can be caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Some of the more common causes of teeth discoloration are medications, coffee, tea or cigarettes. People who drink significant amounts of cola soft drinks can experience similar staining.

Aside from staining, there are other factors that can affect the color of an individual's teeth. Genetics can play a role. Some people have naturally brighter enamel than others. Disease can also be a factor and certain medications can cause a discoloration of the teeth. If you suspect that there is an underlying medical cause for your teeth discoloration, be sure to inform your cosmetic dentist.

Tooth Whitening

Sometimes a single tooth becomes discolored causing it to look out of place with the rest of your smile. In these cases you may want to consider having the tooth whitened to match the rest of your teeth. If you’d like to learn more about what causes the discoloration and what can be done about it, please follow the links below.

How white an individual tooth can become from bleaching and whitening is a common question. Some whitening procedures claim they can whiten your teeth by up to nine shades, but that is highly unlikely. A change of two or three shades will make a significant difference in just about anyone's smile. There is no one standard system in the dental field to measure and determine tooth color. However, the Vita shade guide is the most used. This guide divides individual tooth color into four basic shade ranges:

  • A (reddish brown)
  • B (reddish yellow)
  • C (gray)
  • D (reddish gray)

In the A range there are five levels of darkness. Ranges B, C and D, each have four levels.

Not all of your teeth are the same natural color. As strange as it may sound, usually your eye teeth are darker than the others, and your front teeth are almost always the whitest, and molars tend to be a shade between those two. When your cosmetic dentist is whitening one particular tooth, they will take this into account. The goal for everyone is to achieve an overall whiteness while still looking natural. During your first consultation for tooth whitening, your dentist will go over what you personally can expect for your specific smile. How a white tooth will become will vary from person to person. The structure of your tooth and the type of procedure implemented will affect the outcome.

The following chart will give you some idea of what to expect. As everyone's circumstances are different, options should be further discussed with your cosmetic dentist prior to making a decision. Most people are not seeking a gradual whitening of an individual tooth. The laser whitening procedure affords the cosmetic dentist the needed control and the patient the instant results sought.

You should consult your dentist about cosmetic gum surgery if you believe you have "Gummy Smile" (small crown length), gum recession "long teeth", an uneven gum line due to "short teeth", gum loss or gums which appear to be collapsing (from missing teeth), dark or black areas between bridges, implants, crowns or teeth, or tooth sensitivity from receding gums.

There are two primary procedures for cosmetic gum surgery, depending on your current smile.

  • "Gummy Smile" (Excessive Gingival Display)

A "Gummy Smile" can occur due to wear of teeth from teeth grinding, a short upper lip, or having a longer than usual upper jawbone. This smile is when your teeth appear too small and your gums appear to large.

  • "Long Tooth Smile" (Gum Recession)

As your gums recede, your teeth appear longer than normal. While "long teeth" may result in an unattractive smile, you should also be concerned with root sensitivity and possible tooth loss. Recent advances in techniques and materials have resulted in significant improvements in both comfort, predictability and esthetics.

To Correct a "Gummy Smile"
Cosmetic gum surgery can be done to reduce the excess gum and bone. The removal of these tissues allows for normal sized teeth and for a normal gum line appearance by using an instrument, usually a laser, to remove the undesirable tissue. Typically your cosmetic dentist will prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse to be used twice a day for a two-week period following your surgery.

To Correct a "Long Tooth Smile"
As your gums recede, your teeth look much "longer" than normal. Such gum recession exposes your sensitive root surface which often makes hot or cold foods and drinks a painful experience. Teeth can become loose as your gum recedes. The cosmetic gum surgery solution is basically when a cosmetic dentist or periodontist removes tissue from the roof of your mouth and then grafts it onto your gum line. This tissue then reinforces thin gums or fills in areas where your gums have receded. Typically your cosmetic dentist will prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse to be used twice a day for a two-week period following your surgery.

Pros and Cons of Cosmetic Gum Surgery

Healing is usually quick and your more youthful and beautiful smile is obvious early on. It has been reported that cosmetic gum surgery additionally improves the health of your gums. The procedure to correct receding gums may even reduce your tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods or beverages while protecting your roots from decay and lessening further gum shrinkage.

Cosmetic gum surgery is of course, surgery. Surgery is often performed in segments under a local anesthetic - unless your entire mouth is undergoing this procedure at once, then a general anesthesia is typically used.

If your tooth is infected or there's severe damage to the pulp, a root canal will be recommended. An untreated cavity is the most common cause for this infection. The pulp inside the tooth can become inflamed from trauma or extensive restorative work. It can even be affected from a series of fillings being applied in a short period of time. This inflammation usually leads to infection. Pain in the tooth is the most common and obvious symptom.

Veneers, porcelain or plastic, are placed over the front teeth to change color shape of the teeth. Veneers are ideal for teeth that are too small, too big, or have uneven surfaces. It is very common for people to have imperfect teeth, either oddly shaped teeth, chipped teeth, crooked teeth,teeth with small holes in them, or an inappropriate sized tooth or teeth that have an odd appearance. Veneers solve such irregularities and create a durable and pleasing smile.

How to select a color for your veneers.

When considering veneers a common question is how white the veneers should be. Usually, the answer is to whiten your natural teeth to either the level of whiteness you want or to the brightest they can be. Your cosmetic dentist will then have the veneers made to that color. Teeth are of course not monochromatic, so typically more than one color is used to create a very natural look. This color variation is critical in avoiding fake or artificial looking teeth. It is the internal contrast of colors that help create vitality. The internal play of light on the porcelain in the restoration helps to create this vitality. Surface texture is also very important, and helps to break up light reflections and make the crown or veneer look more natural.

There is no one standard system in the dental field to measure and determine tooth color. The most often heard about, however, is the Vita shade guide. This guide divides tooth color into four basic shade ranges:

  • A (reddish brown)
  • B (reddish yellow)
  • C (gray)
  • D (reddish gray).

In the A range there are five levels of darkness. Ranges B, C and D, each have four levels.

Not all of your teeth are the same natural color. Usually your eye teeth tend to be darker than the others, your front teeth are typically the whitest, and molars tend to be a shade between the two. The goal for everyone is to achieve their individual optimum whiteness while still looking natural.

Most dentists will show you a shade chart (like the above mentioned Vita Shade Guide) for you to pick from. Keep in mind, with a good cosmetic dentist this is merely a starting point. Other considerations when determining the color of veneers for each patient are your complexion, hair color, the color of your natural teeth and even your eye color.

If you want your teeth to appear less crowded, lack chips and fractures, have decreased overlaps or to be without pits or grooves in the enamel, this procedure should be discussed with your cosmetic dentist. With a little dental contouring, you can make a huge difference in the way you feel about your smile. Good cosmetic dentistry can give you a smile that is the envy of others. Tooth contouring by a cosmetic dentist does require that you have normal, healthy teeth.

Tooth reshaping, or tooth sculpting, is a safe and conservative way to improve your smile. Teeth may become weaker if large amounts of enamel are removed, tooth reshaping should be limited to minor changes or combined with veneers or bonding for the best smile.

Types of Tooth Contouring and Reshaping Procedures
There are actually several ways to change the appearance of your teeth. Many times these various procedures are combined in different ways to deliver that smile of your dreams.

Tooth Contouring and Reshaping
The reshaping of a your teeth is a procedure that involves the removal of a very small amount of tooth structure to help achieve a more desirable smile. Chipped or fractured areas are smoothed out and specific angles or edges can be rounded or squared. Contouring creates better alignment and can create a more feminine or masculine smile. It is sometimes done to prevent chipped areas from getting worse. Tooth reshaping is a conservative way to improve the teeth. Since teeth can become weaker if large amounts of enamel are removed, this procedure is limited to minor changes or combined with veneers or bonding for a terrific smile.

Dental Veneers
Veneers are sometimes used in conjunction with contouring. Dental veneers are very thin pieces of specially-shaped porcelain or plastic that are glued over the front of your teeth with little or no anesthesia needed. They are the cure for teeth that are severely discolored, chipped, have small holes or pits, misshapen or crooked, or for the correction of unwanted or uneven spaces. Unlike crowns, veneers won't require the dentist to remove much of the tooth itself. Veneers are created from an impression taken in your cosmetic dentist's office. Your custom veneer is then glued directly onto your tooth.

Tooth Bonding
Basically, bonding will cover any natural flaws applying a thin coating of a plastic material on the front surface of your teeth. After this, your cosmetic dentist will apply a bonding material sculpt, color and shape it to provide a pleasing result. A high-intensity light then hardens the plastic, and the surface is finely polished. This procedure often accompanies contouring and teeth reshaping procedures.

Your dental insurance is likely to cover tooth contouring and reshaping only if it is needed as a result of an accident, but this is a relatively inexpensive procedure. The cost depends on how much the dental reshaping is needed, but average costs are approximately $50 to $350 per tooth.

Pros and Cons of a tooth contouring and reshaping

Your dentist can remove only a small amount of tooth enamel, contouring your problem tooth into a more pleasing shape for an improved smile. The tooth contouring procedure is quick, simple, painless, and inexpensive.

There are limits. You may be at risk for tooth breakage and decay if too much enamel is removed your teeth. If your teeth were uneven because you grind them, they'll become uneven again until the grinding issue is resolved. Your dental insurance is likely to cover tooth contouring and reshaping only if it is needed as a result of an accident.


Dentures are removable replacements for missing teeth typically made out of an acrylic resin which at times incorporate porcelain or metal for additional structural support. There are two main types of dentures. Both Complete Dentures and Partial Dentures are finely crafted, custom-fitted. If you properly maintain your dentures they will appear natural and provide a perfect smile. Additionally, dentures help strengthen muscles controlling your expressions that require the support of your teeth, rid you of pronunciation problems caused by missing teeth and aid with chewing.

If you've lost, or are losing, all of your teeth a Complete Denture is something to discuss with your cosmetic dentist. If some of your teeth remain and are healthy, a partial denture may be your way to a great smile.

This procedure should be thoroughly discussed with your dentist as there are several personal and medical factors to take into consideration. You may instead be a candidate for dental bridges and dental implants as optional procedures.

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Tooth Caps / Dental Crowns

Grinding of your teeth, an improper bite, age, fillings and tooth decay can all be contributing factors in the wearing down, cracking or breakage of your teeth. Dental caps cover the entire visible surface of your affected tooth and add strength, durability and stability.

If you grind your teeth, have an improper bite, have fillings or tooth decay you have contributing factors to the wearing down, cracking or breakage of your teeth. Dental caps cover the entire visible surface of your affected tooth and add strength, durability and stability.

A cosmetic dentist will usually be able to identify problem areas in your mouth that might lead to tooth damage and a need for caps. Chewing patterns play a big role too. By selectively grinding the tips of your middle and back teeth (cusps) will alter your bite to reduce the stress on your at-risk teeth.

A cosmetic dentist will make an impression (mold) of your tooth and a dental laboratory will create the needed custom cap. You will typically leave the office with a temporary cap to wear while the permanent cap is being made - this takes about fourteen days. The permanent cap is then cemented onto your tooth. Typically, only two visits are required for this part of the procedure. Often, a preliminary restoration of your tooth may be needed before the permanent cap is actually placed. To stabilize your tooth, a filling must first be put in place prior to placing a cap to counter any loss of your original tooth structure.

It is important to discuss with your cosmetic dentist that the cement color used for your permanent cap will be the same as used for the temporary cap (try in paste). The color of the cement does affect the overall color of a porcelain cap, so this needs to be discussed well before your temporary cap is placed.

Dental implants are fixtures of titanium which are surgically screwed into your jaw bone. The implant is an anchor for a naturally-appearing false tooth or a set of false teeth. The success rate of dental implants depends on where the implants are placed and their purpose. They are typically best placed in the front portion of your lower jaw. Implants are great for replacing missing teeth. It is important that you have enough bone in the area of the missing teeth for the implants to be attached to. Implants are not only used to replace one tooth, but rather people missing most, if not all, of their teeth benefit greatly as well. Implants are increasingly being used to replace certain types of bridges and removable partial dentures.

If you're missing one tooth or all of your teeth, implants may well be for you. So long as you have enough bone in the area of the missing tooth to facilitate the anchorage of the implants, this procedure can yield terrific results. If you don't have enough bone for this purpose, a bone graft may be necessary. If you have a small dental bridge or partial dentures (removable type), implants will be a welcome alternative. Implants are an alternative to a fixed bridge.

Implants rely on titanium fixtures inserted into the jawbone. Most implants are made of titanium, which is very effective at fusing with living bone (osseointegration).

Conventional Implant
This screw type implant is shaped like the root of a tooth. This is the most commonly used implant and is used where there is plenty of width and depth to your jawbone. If your jawbone is too narrow or short for placement of the Root Form implants, bone grafting may be needed to allow for their placement. After you've received anesthesia, your cosmetic dentist will expose an area of your jawbone and prepare the bone for the implant. The number of incisions and bone preparations depend on how many implants you need. The implant will be set into place and your gums are closed with stitches. It will take two to six months for healing. After you've fully healed, your implant is uncovered and an abutment is attached.

Pros and Cons of Dental Implants

As our life span increases, a permanent dental replacement like implants is increasingly important as we get older. While dentures and removable bridges are usually loose and unstable, implants provide you with dental replacements that are both natural looking and very functional. Implants look much better, and feel better, than traditional removable bridges, and offer the same force for biting as bridges that are fixed in place. Implants will last your lifetime.

Implants are a major investment and not without risk. The extensive use of implants can cost a lot to achieve a great result. It is also a very time consuming procedure when having many implants placed. As this procedure is surgery, it is very important to research and find a well credited cosmetic dentist that you are comfortable with. For some people there are varying degrees discomfort or pain, which subsides in a couple of days. As with similar types of surgery, bruising and minor swelling might also develop shortly after the procedure.

Tooth Bonding

Bonding is a composite resin filling placed in the back teeth as well as the front teeth. Composites are the solution for restoring decayed teeth, making cosmetic improvements and even changing the color of your teeth or the reshaping of teeth. Bonding will lighten any stains you may have, close up minor gaps and can be used to correct crooked teeth. Basically, bonding will cover any natural flaws applying a thin coating of a plastic material on the front surface of your teeth. After this, your cosmetic dentist will apply a bonding material and sculpt, color and shape it to provide a pleasing result. A high-intensity light then hardens the plastic, and the surface is finely polished.

While the traditional silver fillings last about seven years, these composites should last about seven to eleven years.

A very mild etching solution is applied to your teeth to create very small crevices in the tooth's enamel structure. These small crevices provide a slightly rough surface permitting a durable resin to bond materials to your teeth. The resin is then placed on your tooth and high-intensity light cures the resins onto your tooth's surface - with each individual layer of resin hardening in just minutes. When the last coat has been applied to your tooth, the bonded material is then sculpted to fit your tooth and finely polished.

The resin comes in many shades so that we can match it to your natural teeth. Due to the layers involved, this procedure will take slightly longer than traditional silver fillings because multiple layers of the bonding material are applied. Typically bonding takes an hour to two hours depending on your particular case.

Dental Bridges

A dental bridge is a false tooth, known as a pontic, which is fused between two porcelain crowns to fill in the area left by a missing tooth. The two crowns holding it in place that are attached onto your teeth on each side of the false tooth. This is known as a fixed bridge. This procedure is used to replace one or more missing teeth. Fixed bridges cannot be taken out of your mouth as you might do with removable partial dentures.

In areas of your mouth that are under less stress, such as your front teeth, a cantilever bridge may be used. Cantilever bridges are used when there are teeth on only one side of the open space. Bridges can reduce your risk of gum disease, help correct some bite issues and even improve your speech. Bridges require your commitment to serious oral hygiene, but will last as many ten years or more.

If you have missing teeth and have good oral hygiene practices, you should discuss this procedure with your cosmetic dentist. If spaces are left unfilled, they may cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position. Additionally, spaces from missing teeth can cause your other teeth and your gums to become far more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.

Overview of dental bridge procedure
If you a space from a missing tooth, a bridge will be custom made to fill in the space with a false tooth. The false tooth is attached by the bridge to the two other teeth around the space - bridging them together.

Your cosmetic dentist will prepare your teeth on either side of the space for the false tooth. You will be given a mild anesthetic to numb the area, and the cosmetic dentist will remove the an area of each abutment (teeth on either side of the space) to accommodate for the thickness of the crown. When these teeth already have fillings, part of the filling may be left in place to help as a foundation for the crown.

The dentist will then make an impression, which will serve as the model from which the bridge, false tooth and crowns will be made by a dental laboratory. A temporary bridge will be placed for you to wear while your bridge is being made until your next visit. This temporary bridge will serve to protect your teeth and gums.

On your second appointment, the temporary bridge will be removed. Your new permanent bridge will be fitted and checked and adjusted for any bite discrepancies. Your new bridge will then be cemented to your teeth.

Pros and Cons of a Dental Bridge

Advantages of dental bridges:
Bridges are natural in appearance, and usually require only two visits to your dentist. If you maintain good oral hygiene, your fixed bridge should last as many as ten years or more.

Disadvantages of having a dental bridge:
It is common for your teeth to be mildly sensitive to extreme temperatures for a few weeks after the treatment. The build up of bacteria formed from food acids on your teeth and gums can become infected if proper oral hygiene is not followed.

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Pros and Cons of Dental Crowns Types

Tooth crowns in general add a good deal of strength to weakened or worn teeth. Depending on your habits and the condition of your gums, there can be some drawbacks. Your cosmetic dentist will advise which is best for you given many factors, including how important appearance is to you. The following are the advantages and disadvantages of the most common crown types.

Gold Crowns

Advantage: The preparation of a tooth for a gold crown is the simplest and least complicated preparation as there is minimal tooth structure removal with as much as possible of the healthy tooth structure remaining untouched. While porcelain is hard by comparison, it may cause wear on opposing teeth over the years where gold is not as likely to do so. Gold is also easier to fit to the area where the tooth and crown meet for a better fit. Gold is also a healthier environment for the gum tissue.

Disadvantage: The biggest disadvantage to gold crowns is the cosmetic aspect, unless it is being used in the back of your mouth. And the expense.

Porcelain Crowns

Advantage: Porcelain crowns or new reinforced resin are considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing, as it is so easily matched in color to the surrounding teeth, best aesthetics.

Disadvantage: The thickness of the porcelain required for pleasing aesthetics also requires that more tooth structure needs to be removed. It is more difficult for your cosmetic dentist to get an ideal fit where your gum meets the crown. Gingival inflammation appears to be more common with porcelain crowns than gold crowns. All-porcelain crowns require a higher skill level from your dentist and lab. The strength of all porcelain crown maybe less than porcelain metal crown and maybe prone to fracture so must be used with more care.

Porcelain Fused-to-Metal Crowns

Advantage: Porcelain fused-to-metal crowns have a very natural appearance. Strength is also better and preparation required is less than for all porcelain crowns, which means more tooth is conserved. Currently most popular type of crown as more cost effective than all porcelain crowns.

Disadvantage: They have a metal substructure and require an opaque below the porcelain. This can make the translucency of natural teeth difficult to replicate. Occasionally a darker line will be visible at the edge of the crown, near to your gum when it recedes with age.