Difference Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Stains

When it comes to the color of your teeth, there are two main types of discoloration; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic discoloration occurs on the inside of your tooth, while extrinsic staining lies on the tooth surface. Extrinsic stains are cosmetic and don’t usually pose a severe threat to your oral health, but intrinsic discoloration could mean that something is going on that is causing your teeth to become discolored. Further consultation with a dental professional can help diagnose any issues that may lie behind the stains. When dealing with discoloration, if it is mild enough, you may schedule an appointment for a teeth whitening procedure, but only if the stains are extrinsic. If you are dealing with intrinsic discoloration, teeth whitening may not suffice, and Dr. Wright or Dr. Heron may recommend a more involved dental treatment plan.

What Are Extrinsic Stains?

Extrinsic stains are stains on the outside of your teeth, or the enamel, which is a semi-translucent layer of highly-resilient mineral crystals that protects your teeth from damage and bacterial infection. Ways that your tooth enamel may stain can range from everyday eating and drinking to smoking and lack of good dental hygiene. From that morning cup of coffee to whatever adorns your dinner plate; all have the potential to cause extrinsic staining.

What Is Intrinsic Discoloration?

Intrinsic discoloration is when the inner layer of the teeth, or dentin, becomes discolored. This is usually caused by internal problems, or even from taking certain medications. This is harder to treat than extrinsic staining because this deals with the dentin on the inside of your tooth.  When the dentin becomes discolored, there could be something occurring that is more serious than just discoloration, like potential tooth decay, or other oral health issues.

Treatment For Extrinsic and Intrinsic Stains

Since extrinsic stains are on the outer enamel of your teeth, a teeth whitening treatment may be considered. When contemplating teeth whitening, it is important to remember that over-the-counter whitening products will only remove minor stains. When dealing with intrinsic stains, treatment may need to go more in-depth. For instance, tooth decay, which can mar your tooth’s color, might require a dental filling to restore the tooth’s good health. Root canal treatment may be needed if the pulp needs to be removed due to severe tooth decay.


As a native Texan, Gregory Wright, DDS opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.