Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Over time many people discover that the pearly white teeth they had in their youth have become discolored. It can become quite unsightly and some people become embarrassed to smile. Once you have discovered that your teeth have become discolored, you can ask your about the treatment options you have available.  Your dentist has many options when it comes to teeth whitening such as an in office tooth whitening, or something as simple as suggesting a change in your diet. If your teeth are discolored you should ask your dentist about the options you have for teeth whitening.

Types of Stained Teeth

Each person is different and so is their teeth. Some find their teeth are off-white and others’ teeth appear brown, yellow or other colors. In some instances, the teeth are discolored overall; and in other cases, the teeth only have darkened spots. Trying to figure out where the discoloration originated from means finding out what types of tooth stains you are experiencing. There are intrinsic stains and extrinsic stains to consider. Intrinsic stains are caused from the inside out and originate with dark interior sections of a tooth. Extrinsic stains are also called surface stains and these are caused from the outside. In this case, the surface of the tooth is all that has darkened.

Causes of Intrinsic Tooth Stains

There are several things that can cause interior or intrinsic tooth stains. These include:

  • Drugs
  • Dental Fluorosis
  • Trauma
  • Fillings
  • Genetics
  • Aging

Drugs – Some types of antibiotics can cause discoloration of the teeth, especially in children who have teeth that are still forming. Drugs like antihistamines, antihypertensive medications and antipsychotic meds can cause some staining. Even some types of mouthwashes can cause teeth to become discolored.

Dental Fluorosis – Fluoride is a very important factor in preventing tooth decay but too much of it can cause white spots or lines on your teeth. Usually this affects children who have permanent teeth that are still forming under the gum line.

Trauma – A chipped or broken tooth can begin to darken because the enamel is damaged or because of a dead nerve. This type of discoloration can occur if a tooth isn’t capped right after a major dental surgery like a root canal. If you have just one darkened tooth, speak to your dentist to see if he can fix any underlying problems.

Fillings – Tooth decay sometimes shows up as dark spots on the teeth. A larger filling can also make enamel look gray.

Aging or Genetics – For some people, their teeth are darkened as they form and for some teeth do not age gracefully. Simple everyday use can cause teeth to begin to discolor over time.

Causes of Extrinsic Tooth Stains

There are also a few things that can cause stains to develop on the outer surface of the teeth. These include things like:

  • Foods and Drinks
  • Tobacco Use
  • Lack of Oral Hygiene

Foods and Drinks – Teeth can become stained over time by people who consume beverages like coffee, tea, red wine or soda. Even berries and soy sauce can cause stained teeth. Foods or drinks that are extremely hot or cold can contribute to discolored teeth. This is because heat and cold cause the pores in the teeth to open and close which allows staining agents to be more effective.

Tobacco Use – Smoking is a well-known factor in stained teeth. Chewing tobacco can also have the same effect. Actually, any tobacco product can be devastating to the health of your teeth.

Poor Oral Hygiene – Those who have poor oral hygiene habits are more likely to have discoloration of their teeth. Having bad habits can affect the health of your teeth negatively. Stains are just a side effect of improper oral care.

Preventing and Treating Discolored Teeth

For many people, some discoloration of the teeth is inevitable. But there are ways to prevent it such as avoiding products like tobacco and dark liquids that directly stain the teeth. You can also practice very good oral hygiene habits to help prevent discoloration. But what do you do if your teeth are already discolored? Your dental professional should be able to give you some ideas. They will likely suggest things like:

  • Ultrasonic Cleaning
  • Teeth Whitening
  • Laser Teeth Whitening
  • Dental Veneers

Any of these can be effective for whitening the teeth when they are administered by a dentist or dental professional. There are some over the counter products that can be used to whiten the teeth, but these typically have varying results that are disappointing. Talk to your dentist to get his recommendations of the most effective way to whiten your teeth.

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