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Will Teeth Cleaning Remove Stains?

Your dental check-up is part of your routine, isn’t it? It’s every six months, with the appointment made right before you head out the door at the end of your last visit. Your teeth have been cleaned and polished; they feel fantastic and they look much better than when you came in. But what, exactly, does a cleaning accomplish? Can a professional dental cleaning get rid of stains? And if not, what can?

What defines a professional teeth cleaning?

For many people, the most obvious part of a semiannual dental check-up is the teeth cleaning. It leaves your whole mouth feeling fresh and revived. But what exactly does the cleaning do? 

Much more thorough than the brushing and flossing you do at home, a dental teeth cleaning – or dental prophylaxis – is a professional dental procedure that removes plaque, stains, and calculus (also known as tartar) that have built up above your gum line. Your hygienist uses specific tools to scrape away these deposits, either hand tools – the scrapers and picks you’re likely familiar with – or, if needed, an electronic device called an ultrasonic scaler for deeper stains or discolorations. Once your teeth are clean, they’re polished with a prophylaxis paste specifically formulated for this use. 

Will a teeth cleaning get rid of stains on my teeth?

A professional dental cleaning will remove the surface build-up of plaque and tartar, as well as some fresh stains that are not yet deep into your teeth. Such a cleaning is typically performed on healthy adult teeth that show no bone loss or infection, and that do not have periodontal disease. 

As for stains, your twice-yearly teeth cleaning will make your teeth cleaner and brighter overall, but may not be able to eliminate all stains. However, they do help make teeth less prone to staining. Keeping your tooth enamel clean mitigates the effects of such stain producers as tobacco, wine, coffee, and tea. A professional cleaning by your dentist also works against gum disease and tooth decay and helps to make your teeth stronger and more resilient. It gives you a brighter smile, too! (Check out our free Smile Consultation!)

What causes stains on my teeth?

It depends on the stain. There are three basic types of stains on teeth —extrinsic, intrinsic, and age-related.

Extrinsic stains 

Extrinsic stains are the most obvious stains – the ones you see whenever you look in a mirror. Extrinsic stains are only on the enamel surface of your teeth – the hard shell outside layer that protects the other interior layers. Tooth enamel is constantly exposed to things you put in your mouth and it absorbs the color residue. Coffee, tea, and red wine are the biggest culprits, but berries and curries can cause staining as well. Luckily, these stains don’t go below the enamel to the inner part of the tooth, so they’re the easiest to remove!

Intrinsic stains

Intrinsic stains are stains that have moved into the dentin, the sensitive tooth layer that’s just under the enamel. Dentin, which is naturally yellowish and darker than the tooth’s surface, can be stained if it is exposed to what you eat or drink, which happens when tooth enamel wears down. This can be caused by injury to your teeth or if you were given certain antibiotics as a child. Because these stains are inside your teeth, they’re harder to remove than the extrinsic stains on a tooth’s surface. 

Age-related stains

This is just what it sounds like – discoloration that is a normal consequence of your teeth getting older. As we age, the enamel on our teeth wears down and the dentin – the part below the enamel – becomes darker. This type of discoloration is not caused by what you eat or drink. While the change in your teeth as you age is normal, its effects may not be to your liking. 

Are there other ways to get stains off my teeth?

There are, but be cautious. In your favorite grocery store or drugstore, you’ll find toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth over time when used regularly. These can be hard on your tooth enamel and may take weeks – or even months – to produce visible results. Also available are packaged whitening kits to use at home. Of course, with these off-the-rack kits, you can’t control the level of chemicals, and the trays are not made to fit your teeth. You may see some minor improvement, but the results may not last, and improper usage can damage your gums. 

The best way to remove stains from your teeth – any kind of stain – is with a professional whitening treatment. During a whitening treatment at your dentist’s office, your teeth will be treated with a solution that contains peroxide. Peroxide penetrates the enamel of your teeth, causing oxidation, which makes the molecules inside your teeth reflect less light. Your teeth appear colorless and this provides the white effect you are seeking. 

by Westerville Dental Associates

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