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Have you ever had your teeth cleaned only to see no noticeable difference in their appearance? Your mouth may feel cleaner, but the shade of your dental enamel probably didn't change too much. Read on to find out why this is the case, and what a routine cleaning actually achieves!

For the majority of the population, yellow and discolored teeth are caused by something called intrinsic staining. Here, the teeth pick up pigment in the dentin layer beneath the outer enamel. No amount of brushing, scrubbing or abrasive products will remove these compounds. A smaller portion of the population will be effected by extrinsic staining. This occurs when a combination of deeply colored foods, plaque and tartar discolor the surface of the teeth. This staining most commonly effects smokers, heavy coffee drinkers and those with deficiencies in their daily oral care. Because this staining only involves the outermost layer of the teeth, brushing and flossing will have some control over its presence.

As you can probably see, dental cleanings will have little to no affect on intrinsic staining. To take care of dentin layer staining, you will need to use a specific bleaching system like white strips, bleach trays or ZOOM whitening. However, extrinsic staining will be readily addressed by a routine "prophy" cleaning. Since these stains are adhered to the surface of the teeth, mechanical polishing and scaling will eliminate them with ease. 

Your routine cleaning serves three general purposes: to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth, allow a dental professional to asses changes in your oral health, and provide feedback on your home care between visits. The combined goal of these objectives is to protect the teeth from periodontal disease and the progression of tooth decay. Any improvements in the cosmetic appearance of the teeth after a cleaning is a celebrated secondary benefit. If you would like to know more about dental cleanings, dental staining or whitening, please give our office a call!

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